Delay sought on farm bill
Farm Bill 2012 maneuverings are in full force this week.
Politico reports that a draft Senate farm bill (rolled out last Friday) would save $26.4 billion over the next 10 years, but it faces resistance from Southern commodity interests who are pushing to delay the bill’s markup.
From the story:
The new cost estimates, released late Monday by the Congressional Budget Office, offer the most complete assessment yet of the 900-page measure that seeks to end the current system of direct cash payments to growers and reinvest more in new forms of crop insurance.
Within the commodity title itself, about $50.2 billion would be saved by repealing current subsidies, chiefly the cash payments. From these savings, $28.8 billion would be re-invested in a new revenue insurance program that would give farmers added protection against “shallow losses” —not covered now by traditional crop insurance.
The new approach is most popular in the Midwest Corn Belt, and Southern cotton and peanuts have been promised concessions in the process. But there is still Southern regional sympathy with rice growers, who are put at a decided disadvantage and who had been banking on some relief through a more traditional system of target prices and supports.
Politico points out that an earlier draft Farm Bill embraced by lawmakers last November had included targeted prices — to help rice initially. But when other crops jumped in with demands of their own, lawmakers became concerned about distortions disrupting markets and crop growing decisions. The latest Senate draft does not include target prices.
Politico suggests that as the White House and House GOP leadership look for more savings, a key battleground will be the level of premium subsidies provided for crop insurance. The draft bill would add $3.2 billion in spending for crop insurance, chiefly for a new program tailored to cotton.
Meanwhile, AgWeek reports that the four leaders of the congressional agriculture committees recently told agricultural journalists that they will work together to pass a new farm bill this year:
In separate meetings with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., all stressed that they want to get a bill done this year.
Lucas and Peterson said they want to avoid conflict over the reconciliation process affecting the farm bill, while Stabenow and Lucas announced they will produce a joint mark to be presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 25.*
Roberts and Stabenow also signaled that they are willing to accommodate senators from both the South and the Northern Plains, who have been less enthusiastic about the originally proposed commodity program.
* (Noting the Politico report, we’ll see.)