With no sign of a deal in sight, concern is rising about what will happen if the congressional “supercommittee” fails to meet its Nov. 23rd deadline for proposals that will cut $1.2 trillion from

U.S. deficits over 10 years. The legislation that established the panel of six Democrats and six Republicans put in place an enforcement mechanism that will trigger automatic cuts if the committee fails to reach agreement.

NOTE: These triggers would also kick in if

  1. the super committee plan is rejected by Congress,
  2. Congress approves but President Obama vetoes it, or
  3. the panel presents only a partial deal.

However, it would take more than a year (past the next election of course) before the first cuts take effect. And even then they could ultimately be reversed by the new post-election Congress. But here are some of the potential consequences of particular interest to farmers:

  • Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2012 and tax rates would snap back to pre-2001 levels if Congress fails to act.
  • Automatic spending cuts could become a powerful issue in 2012 presidential and congressional election campaigns. It could delay progress on the next farm bill.
  • And the White House has said Obama would block any effort to roll back automatic spending cuts.
  • The Social Security retirement program is exempt from the automatic spending cuts. The Medicaid healthcare program is also protected as are veterans' benefits and food stamps.
  • Farm price supports, food safety, education, foreign aid, public safety and law enforcement budgets would all be hit with across-the-board spending cuts.
  • Automatic cuts would force reductions at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Security Exchange Commission that would make it hard for those agencies to enforce rules and investigate fraud.
  • Some credit rating agencies have warned of a potential downgrade of the top-notch AAA U.S. debt rating if Congress fails to rein in U.S. deficits and the costs of health and retirement benefits. A credit rating downgrade could lead to higher interest rates across the U.S. economy.

USDA touts “streamlining of services” to farmers and ranchers. Approaching its 150th anniversary year, improvements were announced by multiple agencies intended to result in quicker disaster assistance, expedited reviews of pending product applications and fewer reporting dates. For full details, go to www.fsa.usda.gov, www.aphis.usda.gov or www.rma.usda.gov.

Here are highlights:

Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting comments on proposals to expedite “disaster declarations” following natural disasters from six steps to two.

FSA and RMA (Risk Management Agency) will establish 15 common Acreage Reporting Dates (ARDs) for farmers participating in FSA or RMA programs. Previously RMA had 54 different ARDs for 122 crops and FSA had 17 ARDs for

273 crops.

• Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) plans to reduce its veterinary biologics licensing processes by 20% (100 days) by improving the review process.

• APHIS also plans to expedite its enforcement process against those who jeopardize plant and animal health or welfare with a goal of reducing resolution time by 40% (to 165 days) for typical cases and by 46% (to 215 days) for “complex” cases.

Vilsack will be the first sitting USDA Secretary ever to visit Vietnam and China. In Hanoi Wednesday, he announced USDA will assist 70 U.S. agricultural associations to help expand commercial export opportunities in that country.

Specifically, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has allocated $213 million for such activities and Vilsack says an independent study released in 2010 showed that for every $1 spent by government and private industry on foreign promotion, U.S. ag exports increased by $35.