Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The government's economic news this week was written in red ink.
For starters, *the federal deficit in March was $71.2 billion. That's almost $2.3 billion a day. And though that's an improvement over the record February shortfall, *the Bush administration still projects a record annual deficit of $427 billion. In addition, *the TRADE deficit hit a record monthly high in February, as imports of oil and textiles surged.
Bond and equity markets, along with the Federal Reserve, would be a lot happier if those deficits were brought under control. But to do that, Congress and the White House must agree on how to control spending ... and where to make budget reductions. Currently, just about everything is on the table, including some long-favored farm programs.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns: "We've had a good run here. The leadership of the President has made a real difference."
Speaking to the annual "Food and Agriculture Policy" conference in Washington this week, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns championed the Bush administration's commitment to rural America.
President Bush: "Sometimes it's hard to eliminate a program that sounds good..."
And with President Bush proposing deep cuts in agricultural spending in his 2006 budget, Johanns claimed reducing the record federal deficit is a key priority for USDA.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns: "But reducing the federal deficit, I believe, is one of the key challenges that we must face. The 2006 budget, I will tell you, funds very important priorities. It's still a very robust budget for the USDA."
The Bush administration is proposing cutting agricultural spending by about $9 billion over the next five years. But the proposal has run into considerable opposition in Congress. Last month, the House approved a deficit reduction plan that would cut Agriculture Department spending by $5.3 billion. The Senate followed suit, with a plan that would cut USDA spending by $2.8 billion.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R - Iowa: "Number one, it's going to help us save a lot of money..."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has proposed capping farm subsidy payments at $250,000. The Iowa Republican claims the limits will save money and help most of America's farmers at the same time.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R - Iowa: "So, what we want to do is save money but the most important goal is to keep the farm program in the area of helping medium and small sized farmers. So, it's actually a safety net but not a contribution to profit."