Congressman Rick Berg held a telephone press conference today to discuss criticism from Democrat Heidi Heitkamp over cuts to farm programs. Heitkamp is alleging that Berg supports $180 billion in cuts to farm programs, but Berg today called those “false political attacks.” The House Agriculture Committee, on which Berg serves, marked up am ag budget resolution earlier today and according to Berg it included no cuts for production agriculture.
Here’s the audio of the full conference:
There is “not one penny of farm-related cuts included in farm bill” according to Berg. He said that they identified $33 billion in cuts to things like food stamps, but nothing for farm support programs (this upset
Democrat operative Fargo Forum reporter Kristen Daum who grilled the congressman over cuts to “nutrition programs”).
But as you’ll hear, Berg was working pretty hard to put distance between himself and the Ryan budget. He repeatedly said the Ryan budget was “just an opinion” and “just a suggestion” from the House budget committee. According to Berg, the goal of his committee was to find $33 billion in cuts, and he says they found them in wasteful and duplicative programs and not payments for farmers.
From a conservative perspective, I guess it makes sense that the cuts would target all the other programs (like food stamps) that have been larded into the farm bill. Yet, is it really appropriate that farm subsidies be spared when Republicans are making such a (rightfully) ardent case for deficit and debt reduction overall?
That’s a question AP reporter Dale Wetzel asks. Farming has been good of late. Why should farm subsidies be left out? And the answer (though you won’t hear Berg say this) is because of politics. If Berg supports cuts to farm subsidies Heidi Heitkamp will pounce on it, and it might cost Berg the election.
Which just goes to show that the real culprits in America’s budget mess are American voters. The only spending anyone wants to cut is other people’s spending. That’s why Berg can’t support cuts for farm subsidies. Or ridiculous airline subsidies. Or any other spending that’s popular with people who will be voting for him.
Until these public attitudes about spending change, we aren’t going to fix anything in the national budget.