As Congress’ 12-member “super committee” wrestles with how best to cut/save $1.2 trillion in the federal budget over the next decade, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have jointly suggested agriculture programs take on $23 billion in cuts.
The proposed cuts would come from the following programs: commodities ($15 Billion), conservation ($4 billion), and nutrition/food stamps ($4 billion).
If direct payments are ended, legislators will point to high commodity prices as justification.
According to the National Cotton Council (NCC), it appears “the $23 billion in agricultural cuts is a net number. The total savings would be $27 billion but $4 billion would be used to cover disaster losses because the current law terminated assistance under SURE and other programs on Sept. 30. Cuts from commodity programs would be $15 billion, with the balance of the reductions from conservation and nutrition.”
While much remains in flux, a Delta Council report says “de-coupled direct payments will not be part of any agreement by the agriculture committees, but rather a revenue-based risk management approach will be utilized to craft the new farm law.”
Current Delta Council policy supports “the NCC approach toward new farm law for cotton producers, but at this time, there is no specific direction which our Rice Committee has adopted in order to offer recommendations to the Mississippi Congressional Delegation and other Congressional leaders,” said Bowen Flowers, the Coahoma County President of Delta Council. “We will be working with the leadership of our Rice Committee of Delta Council and the national producer organizations in the coming weeks to work on discovery of the best possible revenue-based approach for Delta rice growers, since it is such a vitally important part of the Delta economy.”
In response to the proposed reductions, Garry Niemeyer, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President said the “NCGA appreciates the bipartisan work ... to reach an agreement on farm bill spending reductions. Our farmers have previously stated we are willing to do our part to help reduce the deficit.
“The highest priority for NCGA is securing a strong crop insurance program. In addition, we support revenue-based risk management programs that address gaps not covered by crop insurance. This type of program would deliver assistance only when it is needed. Everyone must play a part to help with our nation’s financial situation."
As for crop insurance, in late September, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, House Agriculture Committee ranking member, largely dismissed a White House proposal to cut funding. “I think the cuts being proposed by (President Obama) are ill-advised and a mistake. We made significant changes in (the crop insurance) program and we don’t have the information or results from those changes. We won’t have them for another year…
“We view (Obama’s) proposal kind of like we view his budget. They put all the good stuff in the budget and everyone ignores it. I think that’s the impact of some of what they’ve put forward.”
Peterson said he is “opposed to making any further changes in crop insurance. The (chairmen and ranking members from both agriculture committees) have met a couple of times … and in those meetings I’ve heard all four of us say we’re opposed to any more changes in crop insurance.”
Peterson also said the super committee had been difficult to read. “We don’t know what the super-committee is actually looking for. We have not been told. We have not been given" a budget number to shoot for "and the process is unclear.”
Even so, “We’ve decided that it’s in our best interest to move ahead and be pro-active in anticipation that there will be some instructions and requests by the super-committee at some point. We do have staff looking at options and what kind of policies would have to be considered anywhere in the range of $11 billion -- which was (proposed) by the 'gang of six' –- up to $33 billion, which is being talked about by President Obama and (Ohio Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the House). They’re both at that number.”
Now, several weeks later, the number for cuts appears to have settled in the middle at $23 billion.