Bloomberg News

U.S. Agriculture Budget Should Cut Nutrition More, Conaway Says

December 14, 2011

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Government programs including food stamps and school lunches may need to be cut further as lawmakers attempt to rein in spending and trim the federal deficit, U.S. Representative Mike Conaway said.

A current farm bill proposal includes $4 billion in cuts to nutrition-assistance programs over 10 years, compared with $15 billion in reductions to commodity programs including direct payments to farmers, Conaway said today in a speech at a rice- industry event in Austin, Texas. That doesn’t represent a “proportionate sharing” of cuts, Conaway said.

“There are those of us who believe nutrition has money that is currently being spent that does not need to be spent,” said Conaway, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a Republican from Texas. “There’s a significant amount of money that we can eliminate and still not affect one beneficiary’s calorie intake. We can keep everybody on that’s there, but we pull out a lot of other stuff. It’s in the billions of dollars.”

Agricultural committee leaders from the House of Representatives and Senate recommended to the congressional supercommittee in October that no more than $23 billion be cut from farm programs over the next 10 years. The proposal also included $6 billion in reductions to conservation programs and a $2 billion reinvestment in other areas, Conaway said.

The proposed $23 billion in total cuts likely “will be the ceiling in the Senate, and it’ll be the floor in the House,” as lawmakers discuss the farm bill next year, Conaway said.

--Editors: Steve Stroth, Patrick McKiernan

To contact the reporter on this story: Whitney McFerron in Chicago at wmcferron1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net


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