Friday, November 18, 2011

Agriculture panels offer deficit-reduction plan, a new Farm Bill, as 'supercommittee' nears failure

Negotiators delivered a proposal to cut farm programs by $23 billion over five years as part of a deficit-reduction plan just as partisan divisions seemed likely to derail the process and lead to a more traditional Farm Bill debate next year.

"Regional politics trump party" in the proposal to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known as the "supercommittee," David Rogers of Politico reports. The agriculture committees of the House and Senate have been challenged to balance competing Southern, Corn Belt and Great Plains interests in reducing subsidies.

As expected, the plan would phase out the current direct cash payments but offer three new options for farmers. One option, a supplemental crop insurance plan to guarantee up to 90 percent of average farm income, "would allow a more individualized, farm-based standard demanded by Great Plains states . . . than the Midwest Corn Belt," Rogers reports.

“Critics of farm programs say that farming interests are unfairly using the secretive drafting process to guarantee themselves continued subsidies at a time when commodity prices and farm income are at historically high levels," writes Philip Brasher of the Gannett Co. Washington bureau. "If the bill is included in the deficit-reduction plan, the farm programs would be shielded from any amendments in the House or Senate, because neither chamber can make any changes in the fiscal legislation. . . . The bill drafting could be all for naught if the supercommittee is unable to reach an agreement on an overall deal, although the farm legislation could be resurrected later.” (Read more)

Under the plan, lLandowners with adjusted gross income of more than $950,000 would be ineligible for commodity-program payments, and payments would be limited to $105,000 per producer. USDA Rural Development programs would continue, but with lower spending levels. For details, click here.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has created an online tool anyone can use to visually analyze details of the proposed Farm Bill, the Pork Network reports. To analyze the farm bill options, click here.

No comments: