Agricultural producers should expect to see cuts to many federal farm programs as the next farm bill is debated in Washington, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist.

Dr. Joe Outlaw, AgriLife Extension economist and co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University, was quick to the point when addressing attendees at the 2010 Texas Plant Protection Conference in Bryan.

"There’s going to be a whole lot of looking to cut money out of what can be cut and agriculture is going to be cut," Outlaw told attendees.

About one quarter of 1 percent of the federal budget goes to funding agriculture, Outlaw said.

What won’t be cut in a "year like this one" are nutrition programs, which account for about 75 percent of agriculture’s federal budget. Bulls-eye programs likely to be targeted for cuts include crop insurance as well as conservation and commodity programs, he said.

"When you break it all down, the main bull's-eye is on the $5 billion in direct commodity payments. Nobody wants to cut conservation or crop insurance but they have in the past and will continue to be under budget-cutting pressure."

Outlaw said it's too soon to speculate on what will be the next "piece of ag-oriented legislation."

"You can't do much in terms of a farm bill next year until they tell us how much they are going to cut out of agriculture," he said. "No question, we’re going to have less money. The question is with what you have left: Do you want to leave it as it is or do you want a different type of safety net?"

In addition to the threat of budget cuts, there are currently 37 farm bill programs equaling approximately $9.8 billion that do not have any funding after the 2008 farm bill expires.

"If we are going to have any of these programs, which include the disaster program in the next bill, there will have to be cuts to other programs to provide the funding," Outlaw said.

Overall, he said "all signs point to less of a safety net, regardless."