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Owens slams GOP budget for farm cuts

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WASHINGTON — The spending plan proposed by House Republicans this week could disrupt farm programs even though it won’t become law, Rep. William L. Owens said Wednesday.

Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, warned that the plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would tie lawmakers into slashing far more from farm programs than they already agreed to do, effectively derailing the five-year farm bill that is due for renewal this year.

The cuts Mr. Ryan envisions, totaling more than $30 billion, are about $10 billion more than House Agriculture Committee has been working with, Mr. Owens said. And because the Budget Committee is likely to pass the budget first, the Agriculture Committee will start with a smaller pot of money, he said.

Mr. Owens said he is concerned about the effects on crop insurance, which Mr. Ryan targeted for cuts. Democrats have also criticized cuts to the supplemental nutrition program formerly known as food stamps.

Budget resolutions never have the force of law, but they set limits on the amount of money House committees can devote to policy areas such as agriculture or defense.

Ultimately, Mr. Owens said, the budget will serve as a piece of partisan messaging, which he said contrasts with a largely bipartisan farm bill debate so far.

He said lawmakers should move toward recommendations of bipartisan commissions that have suggested a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts, including letting some of the Bush-era tax cuts expire and revamping the tax code.

“These are rational proposals, and they’ve stepped away from them entirely,” Mr. Owens said.

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