House farm bill draft proposes deeper cuts
Published: Jul 9, 2012
The House Ag Committee released a draft farm bill blueprint last Thursday that seeks $12 billion in long-term ag cuts more than Senate-proposed savings. The proposal does, however, bolster crop insurance and cross-regional program supports.
American Farm Bureau Federation and the major commodity groups were studying the 557-page proposal, which tentatively is set for committee debate and potential approval Wednesday.
In essence, the House draft calls for more than $35 billion in mandatory funding cuts over the next 10 years and proposes repealing or consolidating more than 100 programs.
It charts about $14 billion in commodity-related cuts, $6 billion in conservation reductions, and, perhaps most controversially, $16 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps.”
National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Corn Board President Garry Niemeyer reported NCGA was assessing similarities and differences between the House’s revenue safety net plan and NCGA’s “grower-developed policy.”
While he could not yet discuss details of the House plan, Niemeyer stressed NCGA’s continued push for congressional farm bill passage yet this year.
“It was great that the Senate was able to get things together and get a bill passed,” Illinois Farm Bureau Director David Serven told FarmWeek Friday. “This House draft is another step in the right direction, in that (lawmakers) are moving forward.
“Hopefully, the committee will come out with something and, in the end, we’ll be able to get the House and the Senate together and get something done this year. If we wait until next year, the cuts are going to be even deeper.”
Niemeyer noted the House plan’s inclusion of regulatory relief language aimed at heading off recently enacted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System pesticide permits.
The Senate to date has failed to act on the standalone version of the measure approved last year in the House, amid resistance from Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in particular.
The House draft repeals farm direct and countercyclical payments and the Average Crop Revenue Election and Supplemental Revenue standing disaster programs. Instead, it envisions a two-tiered central revenue protection program that offers the option of Price Loss Coverage which addresses deep, multiple-year price declines; or Revenue Loss Coverage, a “shallow loss program that resembles the Senate-proposed new Agriculture Risk Coverage program.
Serven was pleased by what he viewed as strong House-Senate support for a viable crop insurance program. “That is definitely a priority for us in Illinois.”
At the same time, the St. Augustine producer noted a slight boost in proposed commodity production loss/“target prices,” in his view, a necessary move to “appease” southern growers who argue Senate revenue proposals disproportionately favor the Midwest.
He suggested current drought conditions would help “push (Congress) along.” Potentially heavy weather-related losses in Southern Illinois and other areas “really show the importance of a good farm bill,” Serven said.
“SNAP funding is probably going to be the most contentious issue between the House and Senate,” he said. “The House is cutting a whole lot more in that area. I think the Senate was talking more about fraud and misuse, while the House is talking more about changing the eligibility rules.”
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