Across our readership area, a notable transition took place in many state governments last week – the start of a new gubernatorial administration. The looming question for many is how to keep their state governments functioning without raising taxes? The solution -- cutting programs. A New York Times article reviewing many of the inaugural addresses presented last week noted one common denominator – the need to shrink government, live within the state’s means and make the hard choices. Analysts said it did not matter the party affiliation; the message was the same.
And agriculture departments, like many state agencies, have not been immune to the cuts. For farmers, these incoming administrations, along with the new Congress at the federal level, will be taking a hard look at many programs with a critical eye. The question many farmers need to ask is what programs are essential to sustaining a state’s agricultural industry and what ones could be negotiated? Additionally, farmers will need to show a greater impact and reach of their programs beyond the farm gate and how these government programs benefit the greater population.
In the past couple of weeks, talk has been increasing from many of the national agriculture groups that they will be willing to compromise and discuss options to protect farmers. That discussion of compromise will be essential as legislators are looking for options.
Will it be easy? Definitely not. Will a change in past lobbying tone be required? Probably. Going to the state or federal capitol and asking for current programs to be continued is probably an unrealistic goal. As to what agriculture will do, I am curious to see how the spring budget and 2012 Farm Bill discussions go.
Charlene Shupp Espenshade