Speakers during the Farm Policy session at the 2011 USA Rice Outlook Conference agreed that a successful farm bill would include budget cuts and policy proposals that work for all crops and all regions. There was less agreement on when the next farm bill might actually be written, with the congressional "Super Committee" having disbanded without agreement on budget cuts, including farm policy cuts offered by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
Panelists included Joe Outlaw, Ph.D., co-director of agriculture and food policy at Texas A & M University; Joe Shultz, senior economist, Senate Agriculture Committee; Bart Fischer, chief economist for the House Agriculture Committee and Reece Langley, vice president of government affairs, USA Rice Federation. USA Rice Producers' Group Chairman Linda Raun served as session moderator.
Outlaw predicted that conservation and commodity programs will take the biggest cuts in the next farm bill, that crop insurance would not be harmed, and that direct payments would be gone after 2012.
Schultz said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is focused on trying to get the farm bill written in 2012 and credited the Senator and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., with doing a "tremendous" job in developing farm safety net programs that would meet the needs of all crops in all regions.
"We're hoping that we can get a farm bill written in 2012 because after that, cuts to agriculture only get worse as we face another round of budget cuts and continue to lose our budget baseline," Schultz said. Fischer credited the rice industry with providing good information to the committees during the farm bill negotiations process and said the industry needs bipartisan agreement to develop risk management tools that work for producers while at the same time, addressing the debt crisis.
Langley told attendees that USA Rice Federation's Farm Policy Task Force and the USA Rice Producers' Group board will seek producer choice of either an enhanced target price program or an effective revenue projection program.