House Approves Conference Report on FY04 Budget Without Mandatory AgCuts

Friday, April 11, 2003                   By Shawn Wade

      Aginterests have been working hard to offset the potentially devastating cutsapproved in the House and Senate during development of the their FY04 Budgetresolutions.

      Finalaction by the House/Senate Conference Committee on the legislation providessome good news for farm program defenders.

      Inthe Conference report, which was passed by the House of Representatives earlyApril 11, mandatory cuts have been eliminated including those targeted at Agspending.

      Thechanges are paid for through a smaller tax cut than the Bush Administration hadrequested and the shifting of cuts to fall on discretionary programs.

      Underthe resolution, Agriculture and other committees will be required to submitrecommendations to the Budget Committees for discretionary program spendingcuts by September 2, 2003. The level of those cuts will be communicated to themby May 16, 2003.

      Theresolution currently calls for $4.865 billion in discretionary agriculture cutsover 10 years, starting with an initial $253 million cut for FY04. The Houseand Senate Appropriations committees have the ultimate authority over thediscretionary spending cuts, including the cuts specified for agriculture.

      Themeasure will now go before the Senate, which could vote as early as April l1 toapprove the conference report.


Disaster Helper Available ToESTIMATE Potential Payments

      Producers and agriculturallenders across the High Plains are wondering “If?” and “How much?” theAgricultural Assistance Act of 2003 will help them or their producer customers.

      Unfortunately, a concreteanswer to these inquiries is still impossible to provide.

      There are, however, anincreasing number of disaster calculators being developed that can oftenprovide a ballpark figure for producers and bankers needing an educated guesson what the program will mean in a monetary sense.

      As USDA works feverishly tofinalize the rules that will govern the disaster program, any paymentcalculator a producer chooses to utilize will be constructed using a mixed bagof facts and guesswork.

      The facts will includedetails that USDA has announced and is working to finalize. The guesswork willmostly be assumptions pulled from the past and what was used in the 2000 CropDisaster Program.

      Plains Cotton Growers isproviding access to one such calculator through the organization’s website(located at

      Follow the link on the PCGHome page to download a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that will estimate thepotential disaster payments for multiple farms/units and provide an estimate ofthe total disaster payment that a producer could be eligible for in 2001 or2002.

      Included with the table is aworksheet showing the 1996-2000 Olympic average yields for most High Plainscounties.

      The spreadsheet wasdeveloped with the help of the Texas Cooperative Extension Service and shouldonly be used to ESTIMATE potential payments.

      Only when USDA finalizes allof the rules will a producer be able to calculate an accurate disaster paymentamount.