The 2002 Farm Bill posed a variety of challenges for Congress, farmers and ranchers, but U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the federal budget deficit poses a formidable obstacle to agreement on the next bill, according to a Dow Jones report.



Moran, chairman of the House's General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee, made the remark Monday while addressing a conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention in Charlotte.



A goal of reducing the deficit will make it hard to maintain funding for agriculture programs, and substantially less money might be authorized for the next farm bill, Moran told the gathering. "Unfortunately, many members of Congress do not see farming and ranching as something they are interested in," Moran said. "We have an urban Congress that sees agricultural spending as the place where the budget can be cut."



Such lawmakers have an "image of tremendous spending in agriculture," he explained. But the current farm bill earmarks just 16 percent of its funding as payments to farmers. "Most of the money is for nutrition programs," Moran said.



Despite a goal to cut the deficit, cuts in farm spending probably won't achieve much in balancing the budget, he said. Eliminating current farm programs, which distribute money to producers, would only cut $18 billion annually.



The emergence of a world market has further complicated the process of devising a farm bill, he said. Moreover, disputes over agricultural trade are inevitable. Current disagreements before the World Trade Organization only point toward change, he said. So called "specialty crops," such as fruits and vegetables, will likely be included in new farm legislation, Moran said. The addition will make the farm bill more complex. Finding an acceptable common policy among those producers could be a tough job, and cut "the pie into smaller pieces."



Federal crop insurance will probably be reformed as part of drafting the next farm bill, he said. "We have to make crop insurance a viable product for more commodities and more regions of the country," he said. "We must make crop insurance work in a less bureaucratic way." The program must also be capable of functioning well during multiple-year disasters, he said.