* Targets show similar views on agriculture's share of cuts
* Major disagreement on which programs to reduce
* House Ag Committee favors sharp reductions in food stamps
WASHINGTON, Dec 3 As time runs out to pass a new
U.S. Farm Bill in 2012, the White House and Republicans in the
House of Representatives hold surprisingly similar goals about
how much to cut spending - roughly from $32 billion to $35
But getting to a final agreement is proving difficult. Each
side agrees to significant cuts to farm subsidies and soil
conservation, but they have diametrically different views on
food stamps, which the White House refuses to cut.
A final figure for cuts may emerge as part of an agreement
on government-wide retrenchment to rein in the federal deficit.
House Republican leaders and the White House continued to
squabble on Monday over elements for a broad deficit reduction
Farm subsidies have been identified as a clear target for
cuts. In a series of interviews broadcast over the weekend,
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner repeatedly cited farm reform
as a way to "save a lot of money."
Both sides would eliminate the $5 billion-a-year
direct-payment subsidy, also a top target of reformers. And they
would reduce funds for conservation.
The near-agreement on the size of cuts is obscured by
infighting over funding for food stamps and how broadly to
rewrite the farm program, a small-farm activist said on Monday.
"There is some coincidence" in the goal, said Dale Moore of
the 6-million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, arising
from similar views about agriculture's potential share of
cut-backs. But there is sharp disagreement over which programs
The White House would cut crop subsidies, crop insurance and
conservation but not food stamps for the poor. The farm bill
approved by the House Agriculture Committee would get half of
its $35 billion in savings from food stamps and the rest from
crop subsidies and conservation. Some Republicans would cut
deeper still into food stamps.
In its proposal, the White House said it would save $7.5
billion on crop insurance over 10 years, $30 billion by ending
the direct payment and $2 billion on conservation. It would use
some of the savings to pay for disaster-relief programs.
On Monday, House Republican leaders suggested budget cuts
patterned on an unsuccessful 2011 budget reform commission on
top of automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in
January. The automatic cuts would trim farm programs by as much
as $10 billion. The commission's plan suggested $10 billion in
cuts and cited farm subsidy, conservation and export promotion
programs as potential targets.
House action on the farm bill stalled during the summer. The
Senate passed its bill in mid-June with a lower overall spending
cut of $23 billion. It would cut crop subsidy spending by $13
billion over 10 years and reduce the premium subsidy for crop
insurance policies purchased by big operators, while paring the
food stamp budget by $4 billion.