WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Texas Congressman Charles W. Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Democrat, have led some 100 members of Congress in urging Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich (R-OH) to take agriculture's historical contributions to budget savings and last year's dramatic changes to farm programs into account as budget considerations begin in earnest.
Chairman Smith and Rep. Stenholm wrote Chairman Kasich urging the Budget Committee to treat agriculture -- and commitments made to America's farmers in last year's sweeping agricultural reform -- fairly in the budget resolution for fiscal year 1998. In addition, the Members forwarded to Kasich a letter to Smith from 108 agriculture groups from across the United States that emphasized agriculture's $60 billion in cuts and 79% reduction in farm program spending over the last 12 years.
"The contribution of the agriculture sector to budget savings over the past 12 years, in percentage terms, far exceeds any other major budget function. In fact, no other area of the budget has so consistently made such major contributions to budget control during this period," the Members wrote Kasich.
"Last year, Congress passed and the President signed the most sweeping reform in the 60-year history of farm programs. Of greatest importance to your committee, the 1996 Farm Bill guaranteed fixed payments for most program commodities and ended support programs for others, eliminating the cost projection that had been typical in the previous decade. This extensive change in farm programs has just begun, and it would be most disruptive and confusing to introduce further changes at this critical stage," the Members wrote.
"We respectfully request that as you begin your deliberations on the budget, that you take into consideration agriculture's past contribution and the need for time to allow the new reform program to work. As a matter of fairness and policy, any budget must reflect these concerns," the Members concluded in their letter to Kasich.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.