Local News

North Carolina Farmers Eye Spending Cuts

Posted May 28, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A move to balance the federal budget is on the fast track in our nation's capital. Included in the measure are some very tough decisions, such as what programs to cut to bring spending in line with income.

Across the nation, farmers are concerned that some of those cuts may hit too close to home. Such changes could affect the productivity of some of the nation's farmers.

NC farmers met Tuesday night with Congressman Bobby Etheridge at the Nash County Agricultural Center. There, farmers voiced their opposition to the closing of any Federal Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. They see those offices as vital to their livelihood and fear that government, in its rush to cut the budget, may bite the hand that feeds it.

Farmer David Grant makes about six trips each year to the Northampton FSA, the federal office responsible for collecting crop reports, handling government crop insurance, and overseeing federal support programs for crops such as tobacco and peanuts. To save money in an era of shrinking government, some in Congress want to close or consolidate FSA offices nationwide. That would force many growers to drive to adjacent counties or make long distance telephone calls in order to deal with agents. Grant says that will hurt farmers, especially small ones.

NC Agricultural Department Spokesperson Jim Knight says such cutbacks would cut into farmers' bottom lines and would leave many geographically isolated from FSA services.

Etheridge is holding a series of three public meetings on the subject. Those meetings were prompted by his receipt of a petition signed by 20,000 Tarheel farmers. Etheridge says the petition, which asked that farmers be allowed input into decisions surrounding cuts, prompted discussion about the realities of the situation.

Now, Washington has agreed to hold off on cuts until it has more information. Congressman Etheridge has scheduled the other meetings for Thursday night in Durham and Monday night in Smithfield.