Washington currently is a town with a limited focus.

“Budget and appropriations are all we talk about in D.C.,” said John Maguire, vice president for Washington operations for the National Cotton Council, during the 54thannual meeting of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.

Maguire said the continuing resolution budget passed by the House of Representatives requested $61 billion in cuts from non-defense discretionary spending. “That’s only 12 percent of the U.S. budget,” he said.

The resolution is necessary because the last Congress did not fund the government for the entire fiscal year.

“And the 2012 budget is still to be developed,” he said. That will create even more friction as Congress is committed to “no earmarks, which could be a concern for some agricultural research programs,” Maguire said.

Congress also has to deal with the debt ceiling. Proposals currently include riders on greenhouse gas and dust rules. “The White House does not want riders in an appropriations bill,” Maguire said.

The U.S. House of Representatives will propose what is widely assumed to be an austere budget this week. “It will be far-reaching with dramatic cuts,” Maguire said.”

He said two certainties will be no activity on Social Security and no new taxes. Medicare and Medicaid may be on the table.

“Otherwise, expect deep cuts.” He said the Senate will offer a budget with  less severe reductions.

Farm programs will be on the block, Maguire said. Sen. Debbie Stabenow,  D-Mich., chairman of the  Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, may have an easier job holding onto farm bill funds than will  Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

“We could see changes in the 2008 law before we get to a 2012 bill,” Maguire said. “The budget will be the controlling force of the 2012 farm bill.”

Large spending areas untouched

Draconian cuts will leave more than 60 percent of the nation’s budget untouched. Social Security accounts for 43 percent of the budget and defense accounts for 20 percent. Food Stamps and nutrition account for 2 percent.

“And 75 percent of agricultural spending is on nutrition,” Maguire reminded the audience. “And agriculture is doing well so why should we change when the program is not costing much?”

Maguire said veteran ag committee members think the 2012 farm bill will be a tough one to negotiate. He said Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss expects it to be the toughest he’s ever seen.