What is in this article?:
- As balancing the U.S. budget, reducing the federal deficit, and determining whether profitable corporations should continue to receive corporate tax breaks takes the forefront in federal policymaking, agriculture has already taken a number of hits with many more on the horizon.
Farmers and ranchers have known for a long time that most federal lawmakers are notoriously uninformed when it comes to making decisions about farm policy. But what have long been laughable, but serious errors on the part of legislators and policy makers in the past seem to have reached a pandemic crescendo of inefficiency. A war-driven economy and partisan politics have muddled minds in Washington as ill-fated attempts to address federal budget concerns has spawned a plethora of actions that threaten to multiply problems rather than address ways to make them better, especially when it comes to farm policy.
While the problem extends far beyond agricultural issues, it is becoming apparent that farm policy will be taking more than its fair share of these misguided decisions by lawmakers, who seem to have lost touch with reality when it comes to understanding that U.S. agriculture plays as important or a greater role to a healthy nation as the banking and energy industries.
As balancing the U.S. budget, reducing the federal deficit, and determining whether profitable corporations should continue to receive corporate tax breaks takes the forefront in federal policymaking, agriculture has already taken a number of hits with many more on the horizon.
For example, when lawmakers and the White House ordered the USDA to cut its budget last year, an immediate plan to close a large number of agriculture research centers was one of the first decisions adopted as a way to help curtail deficit spending. In spite of researchers warning their bosses in Washington that such a move would leave gaping holes in food safety issues and in the development and oversight of deadly plant diseases and insect research, critical centers like the Kika de la Garza Subtropical Research Center in Weslaco, Texas, was ordered closed and the majority of its staff laid off.
Since that time, citrus greening disease has spread from Florida and has been confirmed in both South Texas and California. The same disease that decimated the Florida industry in recent years now threatens the destruction of citrus groves in Texas and California — a major blow to the U.S. citrus industry. The USDA center in Weslaco had been an active partner in studying the management and control of citrus greening in an area threatened by serious subtropical plant diseases just across the Mexican border.
(For more, see: Emergency regulations begin with HLB in California citrus)
But closing vital agricultural research facilities is just one of the problems generated by what appears to be misguided politicians and policymakers.
A federal tax credit for ethanol expired at the beginning of this year, ending an era in which the federal government provided more than $20 billion in subsidies for use of the product. The tax break, created more than 30 years ago, had long seemed untouchable. But in the last year, during which Congress was preoccupied with deficits and debt, it became a symbol of corporate welfare. Fiscal conservatives joined liberal environmentalists to end the tax credit, with help from a diverse coalition of outside groups, leaving ag investors hanging on a thread at a time when domestic production of ethanol should be flourishing.