Sequester cuts starting to hurt

03/15/2013 10:12:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

The industry will not escape unscathed from mandated sequester cuts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said in mid-March it is suspending several reports for the balance of the fiscal year because of budget cuts caused by sequestration. Of those important to the industry, the USDA said it did not plan to issue the potato stocks report and those for all non-citrus fruit, nut and vegetable forecasts and estimates.

The list of suspended fruit crop estimates includes the closely watched first estimate of the 2013 apple crop, released in August.

What’s more, export promotion funds in the Market Access Program for U.S. fresh produce exports were cut by 10% by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Of course, this says nothing of expected cutbacks in border service by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in coming weeks.

The by-now familiar sequestration cuts were put in motion during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, as a plan to motivate lawmakers to stop disagreements over the federal budget from being kicked down the road indefinitely.

It hasn’t worked, of course, but that is no reason to hold U.S. agriculture hostage to Washington’s dysfunction.

The industry may find these coming lapses in services a valuable accounting tool in measuring the value of services that government provides.

The increasing pain and cost of sequester cuts to the fresh produce industry — and other industries — should push lawmakers to act sooner rather than later to find a way forward without cutting essential services.

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Dave Riggs    
Santa Cruz Ca  |  March, 18, 2013 at 05:20 PM

If a private company has to cut costs and expenses, the last thing they cut is customer service. If you are the government, the first thing you cut is customer service, because you want the public to ante up more in taxes. Any organization can find ways to reduce costs and maintain service and product quality if they want to.

Greg Pusczek    
St. Louis  |  March, 18, 2013 at 06:12 PM

Dave you are correct. This is old style Chicago extortion. The Campaigner in Chief could stop this nonsense in 20 minutes.

Ted Schultze    
MN  |  March, 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM

I think we all have to get used to the idea that the federal government cannot continue to spend money they/we do not have. So, its either cut expenses or raise taxes. Take your pick. I think the first thing thing congress can do is stop all the subsidies. One mans subsidy is another mans taxes. I read today that congress is about ready to mandate the USPS continue 6 day delivery. In fact, most folks could deal with 3 day mail delivery. Just another subsidy no one wants to pay for.

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