Senate plan: cut Direct Payments to meet USDA sequestration

Senate Democrats have developed an alternative to the pending across-the-board sequestration cuts. The “American Family Economic Protection Act” contains $120 billion of savings, split evenly between cuts and revenues, that would replace the sequestration-designated cuts to defense and domestic spending until the end of December.

As part of the plan, the Direct and Countercyclical Payments which were extended by that fiscal cliff bill on New Year’s Day would be eliminated; the savings would be $27.5 billion, more-than-enough to meet the sequestration cuts at USDA. That means federal meat inspectors would stay on the job plus Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow says there would be funding for disaster assistance and fill the “holes” left in the farm bill extension. “Which means we would extend the funding for the energy title and certain specialty crop provisions, organics, the other provisions that did not get funded on New Year’s eve.”

The Senator says the cut would satisfy the ten-year sequestration “So we would be guaranteeing that we would not have another cut in mandatory spending next year or the year after or the year after.”

As it stands, it would take the support of all Senate Democrats and at least five Republicans to get past a filibuster. Senator Stabenow says she hopes to get the plan through the Senate and then it would go to the House.

AUDIO: Stabenow explains the plan 4:17 mp3

House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas expressed his oppostion to the plan in a statement Thursday afternoon:

“Farmers and ranchers want to be a part of the solution to the fiscal crisis we face in this country. And, the House Agriculture Committee demonstrated that commitment to being a part of the solution when we passed a comprehensive, balanced farm bill that cut more than $35 billion from all of agricultural spending, including the farm safety net, conservation programs, and reforming the SNAP program.

“We made those reforms in the context of a comprehensive, five-year farm bill that ensured we still met the food and fiber needs of all Americans. The Senate’s approach of taking away our investment in rural America without addressing the hole it will create is not balanced and not acceptable.”

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