Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) announcement that he will introduce a late-February bill to avoid the March 1 implementation of automatic federal budget reductions, known as sequestration, is of deep concern to a number of agricultural organizations. The proposed legislation would cut farm bill spending by $27.5 billion over the next 10 years, undermining efforts to advance much needed reforms for the nation's farm families' long-term risk management needs.

USA Rice Federation and 13 other national groups responded to Reid's plan that would restore 24 of 37 expiring 2008 farm bill provisions, but only the statute's commodity title would be negatively impacted. To achieve the $27.5 billion in farm bill spending, Reid would eliminate direct payments to eligible farmers beginning with the 2014 crop year.

The 14 commodity groups told Reid in a letterthat they are very concerned that agriculture "is the only non-defense budget sector being cut while other sectors are not touched." The coalition said that though their grower members "are prepared to contribute their fair share of cuts to help reduce our nation's unsustainable deficits, [they] cannot support a doubling of reductions in commodity title funding."

The bill would require farmers to take 10 years of budget cuts to delay the sequester for only 10 months, which "is hard to justify," the organizations said. Senate decisions about which farm programs to cut and which to increase are far better made by the chamber's Agriculture Committee "through thoughtful deliberations on the needs of farmers and ranchers" rather than in other legislation, they said.

USA Rice continues to work with federal lawmakers to seek farm safety-net legislation that works for all farmers in all regions of the country.