Last November, Northeast Indiana sent me to Washington to make that change. In April, the House passed The Path to Prosperity, the Republican budget we worked on in committee. The title says it all. By cutting $6.2 trillion over ten years, we put our nation on a strong footing and begin the journey toward balanced budgets and economic recovery. The budget cuts programs across the board. As we move forward on that path, we’ll need to look at farm policy. 

Currently, safety net programs fall into three main categories: commodity programs, crop insurance, and disaster insurance. Keeping a bearing on the two goals of cutting spending and encouraging the American farmers who lead the world in quality and volume, I think that each of these three categories deserves a careful examination. 

Commodity programs include both direct payments and price based counter-cyclical payments. Due to the recent market strength that farmers have enjoyed, we have seen a decline in spending for the priced-base programs. However, direct payments remain on auto-pilot and hold steady at $5 billion each year. Since my first day here in Washington, I’ve been consistent in my opposition to direct payments, payments I’ve received in the past. I know firsthand that they only handcuff farmers and manipulate the economy. They’ve outgrown any use they may have had. 

My principled opposition to direct payments should not be confused with any misguided opposition to genuine safety nets for farmers. 

Take a look at the genuine safety net, crop insurance. I favor strengthening crop insurance, especially in regard to specialty crops. Insurance, whether it is crop insurance for small farms or flood insurance for homeowners, offers protection against potential and unforeseen loss. A true safety net is something that breaks your fall. It is not a leash that restricts your options. That’s exactly what we need to strengthen now. 

Right now in the Agriculture Committee, we’re conducting a deliberate audit of the 2008 Farm Bill’s titles. We’re examining each program and laying the appropriate foundation for evenhanded reforms. I know that farmers, just like any other business owners, understand this. They simply need to know that Washington isn’t out to target them. 

When I took office, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. That document outlines Congress’s power to provide for the general welfare. Unfortunately, Washington has used that clause as a feeble defense for all sorts of programs. However, I stick to the clearest meaning of the word. If it’s truly for "the general welfare," it will apply to all Americans. I take that philosophy to the table when my colleagues and I search for budget reforms. 

My own experiences have shown me how the budget should be cut. Americans are ready. They understand that the same arithmetic that governs private checkbooks must govern the federal budget. With climbing commodity prices, mounting food costs, and ballooning deficits, now is our time to reform agricultural support programs and maintain a strong, genuine safety net for American farmers.