Skip to comments.AP: California's rice, cotton groups aim to fight Bush subsidy cuts
Posted on 02/09/2005 11:39:53 AM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - California's cotton and rice farmers, who receive more than $500 million a year in federal farm subsidies, are preparing for a fight over President Bush's proposed subsidy cuts.
The president proposed a $587 million budget cut in farm subsidies nationwide. That would most affect the state's farmers of cotton and rice, which have a combined acreage of about 1.2 million acres throughout California.
Bush proposed a 5 percent reduction in support payments, a new $250,000 ceiling on payments to individual farmers and an end to loopholes that allow some farmers to claim multiple owners of their farm to get more.
Conservatives, environmentalists and small farmers call the subsidies corporate welfare for the nation's largest growers. But officials with California's cotton and rice industries said Tuesday the subsidies are necessary to guarantee profits while keeping prices low.
California rice and cotton growers received about three-fourths of the state's $757 million in federal crop subsidies in 2003, according to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that maintains a computer database of U.S. farm subsidies. Both crops, while second-tier players in the state's $27 billion agricultural economy, are heavily exported.
Subsidies have "kicked in when prices are low and times are tough, but at the same token the benefits are terminated or lowered when prices are good," said Gene Lundquist, vice president and corporate secretary of Calcot, Ltd., a Bakersfield-based cotton cooperative with 1,100 member farmers in California and Arizona.
Scott Rogers, a fourth-generation farmer who grows 450 acres of cotton in Tulare County, said he's not a welfare case. Instead, the subsidies give him a little more breathing room financially.
"The profit margins are pretty slim right now, and any amount that's cut is going to affect us somewhat," Rogers said. "It's not going to put us out of business, but we'll take a hit on it."
While critics point to the subsidies paid to huge corporate farms, such as $6.6 million received by the J.G. Boswell Co., of Kings County, between 1995 and 2003, Rogers said he gets about $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Boswell is the nation's largest cotton grower.
As Lundquist, Rogers and their counterparts in California's rice industry find themselves on the defensive over subsidies, their state and national organizations are gearing up Washington lobbying campaigns to soften the blow. Congress traditionally has proved itself unable to make major cuts in the nation's farm support payments, which reached $16.4 billion in 2003.
"The president issued his budget and we look at it as being a framework for discussion of possible budget cuts," said Bill Huffman, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based Farmers Rice Cooperative. "That argument will be made before Congress."
Already, the California Rice Commission has retained a Washington lobbying firm to make its case against such reductions for the next federal farm bill, which is due in 2007. The Memphis-based National Cotton Council and USA Rice Federation in Virginia and congressional backers in Southern states are also preparing for a fight in Congress over the subsidy reductions.
The Environmental Working Group analysis showed that 17 percent of federal rice subsidies go to California, while about 11 percent of cotton subsidies are paid to California farmers.
"If budget cuts are a reality - and they may well be - ag would do its part," said Tim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Sacramento-based California Rice Commission. "But we would seek to have those cuts be equitable."
California grows about 600,000 acres of cotton, largely in the San Joaquin Valley, and exports nearly all of it to Asia, industry officials said. The state's rice acreage, mostly in the Sacramento Valley, stands at about 595,000 acres this year, second nationally to Arkansas. Forty percent is exported, while the rest is consumed in the United States as table food and a chief ingredient in beer.
On the Net:
California Rice Commission: http://www.calrice.org
Farmers Rice Cooperative: http://www.farmersrice.com
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org
I want to know when I'm going to get a subsidy from the government for working on electronics. I mean, this is an economically hard-hit profession I'm in. Can't the government take money from other people and give it to me to help me out?
Corporate welfare, pure and simple. The family farm is extinct.
Enough of this SOCIALISTIC CRAP!!!! End ALL farm subsidies. There is no point in it, the whole idea is PORK, and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.
The government should not be paying farmers to grow or not to grow, or to shore up farmers when prices are low. All farmers know they can hedge with futures contracts. You sell short and the lower the prices go, the more money you make. The futures markets were created for the farmers so they could do this. If a farmer can't make money in farming, he should do something else. He doesn't deserve money from my pocket.
Let California pay them a subsidy! I hear they are really progressive out that way.
Someone point me to the part in the Constitution where all businesses in the US were to be guaranteed profits?
Subsidies for cotton and rice growers in California are dumb and counterproductive.
First, recognize that the central valley of California is a desert; every few years big cities have problems maintaining a sufficient supply of water. It takes lots of water to raise cotton and rice. So these farmers get water at subsidized prices to raise water intensive crops in a desert, and thus compete with farmers in the South that get the water naturally.
Next, they get subsidies for the crops themselves, which keeps the prices of rice and cotton higher than it would be otherwise.
Then, because cotton is so high, we subsidize textile manufacturers to make cloth.
So we the consumers pay for the subsidies with taxes and then pay the higher prices for the commodities.
What a country!
The last thing the government should be doing is subsidizing the growing of cotton in deserts. I also think farmers should pay market rates for water. If that ends the farming of "thirsty" crops like cotton in places where water is scarce, that's the way it goes.
Amen to that
Also consider, many of the farms receiving government subsidies are foreign-owned.
Example: Many of the farms, are owned by the same Japanese companies that import their rice (grown in California).
Gee, and here I thought the whole point of hiring illegals to work the fields was to keep the prices low...
Only efficient operators will be "guaranteed" a profit.
Reminds me of OPUS in Bloom County who used to say in order to be a successful farmer in America you had to be able to say
"GET THE GUBMENT OFF MY BACK WHERE'S MY ALLOTMENT CHECK"
in one breath!
100% welfare and unconstitutional. The disgusting Reps in Congress will likely keep the subsidies. I just wish Bush would have completely eliminated them with this budget. Phasing them out is a joke and will NOT work. After a few years, the payments will be increased by a new Congress. All of Bush's "decreases in the budget increases" will only amount to a drop in the bucket. The MSM and the demoRats will always scream. It is so frustrating to think the spineless Reps don't have the will to do what the Constitution requires. ALL subsidies should be COMPLETELY eliminated this year. Any Federal worker handling the subsides should be immediately terminated. We need to REDUCE spending and the number of govenment employees. I don't think Bush truly understands just how smothering are the taxes we pay. I think he is afraid to be bolder. He is probably holding back because he realizes the little girlie men members of his party are too damn chicken to do the right thing. God, I get frustrated with how utterly spineless is the Republican leadership. They should all be ashamed. We need a Grover Cleveland to cut the Budget!
Cotton and Rice grown in the desert country. Yea, makes a lot of sense.
Consider who many of those corporate farmers are. Quite a number are addressed as "Congressman" or "Senator," and others are major contributors to the Republican Party. It's pretty hard to find political courage when the people who write the laws benefit directly from them.
Farmers are Socialists.
Every every every thin dime of farm subsidies should end TODAY.
You know, the grape industry doesn't seem to have these problems. When a glut of low quality grapes became an issue in the Central Valley, Fred Franzia bought them and turned them into "Charles Shaw Wines."
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