Environmental Working Group proposes changes in farm program
Rather than rolling the details of the farm bill into the super committee’s deficit reduction process, Cox and Bruzelius write: “the renewal of the farm bill should be done in an open and transparent process” and then provide principles they would use in rewriting the farm bill.
Some of their proposals echo policies advocated by some of the major farm groups while others are their own. They write, “It is entirely possible to construct a true safety net that protects working farm and ranch families from crippling crop failures AND (emphasis in original) save billions of dollars that can be used to reduce the deficit and reinvest in critical conservation and food programs – a safety net for families, children and our land and water. Here’s how:
- “Eliminate direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, loan deficiency payments, ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) and SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments). (Savings: $57 billion over ten years).
- “Provide every farmer with a FREE crop insurance policy that covers yield losses of more than 30 percent; and eliminate federal premium and other subsidies for revenue-based or other crop insurance products. (Savings: $26 billion just in premium subsidies over ten years).
- “Have the federal government take bids from insurance companies to service the policies, eliminating windfall profits and encouraging the private sector to develop and offer innovative options for farmers to increase their insurance coverage—but not at taxpayers’ expense.
- “Require producers to meet a basic standard of conservation practices in order to be eligible for publicly financed crop insurance.
- “Ensure full transparency by requiring USDA to make available information about who is getting the free policies, the taxpayer cost of providing those policies and how much farmers receive in insurance payouts.”
They estimate that these proposals would save $80 billion over 10 years, far more than most other proposals. With some of those savings they would:
- “Maintain funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs in order meet the needs of families and children during these difficult economic times.
- “Add incentives to SNAP to make it easier for participants to afford fresh food.
- “Ensure that schools have the money they need to meet the new federal school lunch standards and make sure that school lunches provide children with fresh fruit and vegetables every day.
- “Restore cuts to critical conservation programs that protect our soil, clean up our water and preserve habitat for fish and wildlife. This should include adding $10 billion above the current baseline of $64 billion to restore funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program, and increasing funding for technical assistance.
- “Increase funding for programs that provide new market opportunities for sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers, create new jobs and increase access to healthy food by strengthening the local food economy.”