WASHINGTON – West Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer says he met with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to make sure the secretary understands the impact the Bush administration’s budget proposals would have on farmers and ranchers.

Neugebauer said he also discussed reopening the Japanese market that has been closed to U.S. beef exports because of a dispute over BSE testing procedures, during the meeting in Johanns office Wednesday afternoon.

The need to avoid making changes mid-stream to programs enacted by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 was at the top of Neugebauer’s list of topics, the Congressman said.

“By drastically changing some of the farm bill’s commodity programs, a lot of farmers who put business plans into effect based on that policy are going to be put in a real tough spot,” Neugebauer said. “I wanted to make sure Secretary Johanns had a full understanding of the impact on farmers and ranchers in the 19th District.”

In February, the administration proposed capping farm program payments through new payment limit regulations and reducing direct payments to row crop and livestock producers by 5 percent. The proposal could reduce by as much as 30 percent the amount of financial support any one farmer could receive from the federal government.

“As the 19th district is home to many larger cotton and peanut farms, these proposed changes would dramatically affect local producers’ abilities to break even financially, especially during a year with low crop yields or low commodity prices,” the Congressman said.

The House and Senate subsequently passed widely differing budget resolutions. The Senate plan would reduce farm program spending by $2.8 billion over five years while the House proposals calls for savings of $5.7 billion. The resolutions must be reconciled so House and Senate committees can begin work on the fiscal 2006 budget.

Neugebauer also received an update from Johanns regarding the ongoing trade negotiations to reopen the Japanese market to American beef products. The two also discussed possible next steps the Administration could take in response to a World Trade Organization ruling against the federal government’s support of cotton producers.

“I stressed to Secretary Johanns the importance of reaching trade agreements that treat our farmers fairly,” Neugebauer said. “I strongly believe that our efforts that allow our cotton farmers to compete on a level playing field in the world marketplace are in full compliance with WTO requirements.

“And the measures we’ve taken to protect our beef supply against BSE exceed international standards. I told the Secretary that I would help in any way that I can to resolve these two issues.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com