With record federal deficits, the new Congress has the daunting task of making some cuts in government spending, but where will they make the cuts — Social Security or Medicare?
Neither is likely because these entitlements are very popular and affect a large percentage of the population.
What politicians would like to find is something to whittle away that does not affect so many people. They need a scapegoat, if you will, to show the people that Congress is doing something about the deficit without stepping on the toes of huge segments of voters — something like the Farm Bill.
We hear the stories every year about this time. You know, how big city millionaires are picking Uncle Sam's pocket, getting huge farm subsidy checks. We will probably hear even more of those stories this year because Congress will likely begin working on the 2012 Farm Bill that will replace the current legislation.
The biggest percentage of the money in the Farm Bill is not directed to farmers or farm programs at all.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly 80 percent of the Farm Bill budget goes to pay for food stamps and child nutrition programs. Another 7 percent or so pays for conservation programs. Imagine a member of Congress touting doing away with food stamps and the votes those stamps represent.
Farmers are a very small part of the population, though, and cutting their share of the Farm Bill budget would not result in nearly as many lost votes. Additionally, this is the part of Farm Bill the media love to attack, making farmers an even easier target.
Cutting the approximate 13 percent of the Farm Bill budget remaining, however, would eliminate all of our nation's farm commodity support, crop insurance and export programs. These are the programs most vulnerable to attack, and yet they are the very programs designed to keep the United States self-sufficient in food production.
Just what would we save by sacrificing our support of America's farmers? According to Craig Jagger, chief economist for the House Committee on Agriculture, deleting agriculture's share would only reduce the total federal government spending 0.38 percent.
This is not to say improvements should not be made to the way farm programs are budgeted or managed, but we all have a vested interest in ensuring our current and future food supply.
With fewer farmers than ever before in our nation's history, we had better consider what it takes to keep our farmers producing instead of cutting our food security off at the roots.
Denny Banister of Jefferson City is the assistant director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.