By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
WASHINGTON D.C. — Washington is not providing that basic environment for success, growth and certainty that agriculture and other businesses need, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) county presidents on their recent trip to the nation’s capitol.
“That’s been my focus here, not just for agriculture but for business, generally,” Portman said. “I think the deficit is an issue that you should care a lot about. The farmers I know think this is insane that we’re borrowing all of this money, and we’re going to have to pay it back and interest rates are likely to go up.”
The agricultural sector is growing and farmers would be willing take a lot more risk if they felt better about things, Portman said, adding the national deficit is affecting the country’s economy. The problem is spending, not taxes, he said.
Taxes have been going up, but spending is going up much more, he added. Historically taxes have been about 18 percent of the economy and spending has been about 20 percent. Taxes are not that high now, but according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, they will go up to 19 percent by 2015. That will be above the historic average.
“Spending is now at 23 percent; it is going to 24,” Portman said. “If you look over the next three decades, it goes to 35 and 40 percent. “When I say unsustainable, that is what I’m talking about. You can’t catch it with enough taxes. Some Democrats would like to find a new form of taxes, and they’ll be coming after you on some of that.
“We’ve got to deal with this in terms of basic economics, which is stop spending more than you take in,” he said. “You deal with it, you prioritize it.”
Concerning trade, Portman believes in it but said it needs to be fair. The United States has to get back into the business of negotiating, he added.
“The President said he is going to seek trade promotion authority (TPA) again,” Portman said. “Thank goodness, because without TPA we cannot negotiate an agreement. This is the first president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt not to ask for the ability to negotiate trade agreements or TPA.”
Finally, he said he voted against the farm bill because it violated the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. Eighty percent of the farm bill is now in the nutrition title. The cost of food stamps has doubled in the last four years.
“Fifteen million more American are now on food stamps,” he said. “I think it is a huge problem. We’re going to have an economic crisis. I also think it is wrong in terms of the dependency that is going on.”