WASHINGTON - Bankers are second to none in their desire to see the federal deficit pared down. But agricultural lenders across the farm belt are hoping Congress will shield farm programs from the budget cutting ax.

The House Agriculture Committee will hold its first hearing on the Farm Bill on Feb. 15 and the Senate will begin hearings in April. Many bankers fear that programs near and dear to them and their borrowers could be on the line when those hearings convene.

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