Congratulations, agriculture! If all of the planets line up as expected, a new five-year farm bill will soon be in place to provide needed risk management and a safety net should the world collapse.
Although the legislation needs House and Senate approval, the biggest hurdle is expected to be crossed Wednesday when the House is set to vote.
Speaker John Boehner, who has never supported Farm Bills, despite early membership on the House Agriculture Committee, says he will urge Republican support of the legislation. Announcements of the completion of the legislation were made late Monday by the four members of the Conference Committee who did all of the work.
All stressed their bi-partisan effort to succeed and expressed hope the bipartisanship could continue as the House and Senate vote on the measure.
So what is known about the contents of the Farm Bill proposal? The issues that farmers are most interested in are also the issues that draw significant criticism. Consequently, the critical article in the Washington Post newspaper gives a cursory glance at farm programs and crop insurance. The article is entitled “Subsidies in the Farm Bill,” and outlines payment limits, farm safety net programs, and crop insurance funding.
“— Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments and loans, when some were previously unrestricted. The agreement is less strict than either the House or Senate bills, which had put limits on how much a farmer could receive from individual programs.”
“--Language that would limit how many people in a farm operation may receive such payments was also passed by both chambers but taken out of the compromise bill, which would kick the issue to the Agriculture Department.”
“-- A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in. That program might kick in sooner than previously thought as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.”
“-- A separate subsidy program would trigger payments when crop prices drop. This is similar to current subsidies, though the new programs would kick in sooner, especially for cotton and rice, the crops that depend the most on the direct payments that would be phased out. Producers would have to choose between these subsidies or the revenue insurance.”
With the help of the House Majority Leader and the House Rules Committee, the Farm Bill has been cleared for a vote of the full House on Wednesday. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who had be a key block for Farm Bill progress last spring due to the lack of substantial cuts in USDA nutrition programs, cited the cuts made by the Conference Committee as the key part of the agreement.