American Farm Bureau's farm bill proposal
As a rationale for their proposals, they say, “It is important to remember that America's farmers want to get their income from the marketplace, not the government. But market conditions can fluctuate widely and, in years of low prices and rising costs, farm program payments help keep family farms in business. It is also important to remember that regardless of high prices, markets around the world or the weather can render some farm programs useless in any given year.”
The Farm Bureau recommend the continuation of “the vast majority of the programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill,” with some exceptions. Those exceptions include the SURE program (permanent disaster) and the other 36 programs that were funded in the 2008 Farm Bill but did not have a baseline beyond fiscal year 2012. These other 36 programs are included in the following farm bill titles: energy, conservation, nutrition, horticulture and organic agriculture, rural development, trade, forestry, and livestock. Each of those programs will have advocates that may react to being left out of future farm legislation.
When it comes to cuts, the Farm Bureau suggests that “the reductions be spread among these four main spending areas in the following proportion:
30% of the reductions from commodity programs;
30% of the reductions from conservation programs;
30% of the reductions from nutrition programs;
10% of the reductions from the crop insurance program.”
Given the different budget baseline amounts for each of these programs and assuming a total cut of $33 billion, as recommended by the Administration, the cuts would be as follows:
- Commodity programs, which have a $65 billion baseline, would be cut $9.9 billion or 15.2% (most of these cuts could come from a reduction in the base acres used for calculation from 85% to a lower number);
- Conservation programs, which have a $63 billion baseline, would be cut $9.9 billion or 15.7% (2/3 of these cuts could come from the Conservation Reserve Program and the other 1/3 from the Conservation Security Program);
- Nutrition programs, which have a $700 billion baseline, would be cut by $9.9 billion or 1.4% (AFBF argues that this can come from administrative program changes and not from benefits);
- Crop insurance programs, which have an $80 billion baseline, would be cut by $3.3 billion or 4.1% (because of the reductions in the Direct Payment program, the AFBF feels that crop insurance becomes more critical and thus suffers a lower level of reductions than the other broad areas).
The AFBF proposal is relatively comprehensive in that it addresses most of the areas covered in recent farm bills. The passage of any farm bill depends upon a coalition of interests, which include urban legislators for whom the nutrition program is important, and environmental interests who will be looking at the cuts to conservation programs. It will be interesting see what is squeezed (or hammered) into the final farm bill following the give and take of the political process.