Panelists at the FARMFEST 2011 forum "Designing the Next Farm Bill ... Shaping the Future of Rural America" gave a clear message: agricultural programs should not be disproportionatly targeted in budget cuts.
Forum panelists included Kevin Paap, president, Minnesota Farm Bureau; Doug Peterson, president, Minnesota Farmers Union; Chris Clayton, Editor, DTN Ag Policy; and Dave Ladd, president, RDL & Associates, LLC, and was moderated by Lynn Ketelsen, farm director, Linder Farm Network
Paap remarked that the percentage of the Farm Bill directed at commodity payments has shrunk disproportionatly in relation to other areas under the Bill.
"[Agriculture] is willing to do our part to balance the budget, cut the deficit," said Paap. "We want to get our nation back on the path of a more responsible budget. We know cuts have got to be made, but cuts have to be fair. Agriculture cannot be singled out, cannot have a disproportionate share. Bottom line is this budget cannot be balanced by simply cutting Farm programs."
Peterson said 70% of the last Farm Bill funding was directed to nutrition programs, such as food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and it may reach up to 80% in 2012. The commodity payments portion represents only 12% to 14% of the total Farm Bill.
Waiting for the final outcome may take years, according to Ladd. He predicted the government's focus on fixing the troubled economy will extend the passage of the 2012 Farm Bill into 2013, noting "our  Highway Bill still hasn't been able to pass in two years."
Clayton, on the other hand, said the Farm Bill may happen sooner than later. "I think once the [super committee] figures out this second round of cuts, the Farm Bill is going to accelerate very quickly," Clayton said. "And if we can see the committees themselves come together, then they’ll start to push it through very quickly."