WASHINGTON, Oct. 6- Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Cong. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) introduced $40 billion in farm bill cuts yesterday.
The Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger Act (REFRESH) would reform farm programs, cutting $16 billion, a 24.5 percent reduction. Roughly two-thirds of the savings would come from farm and conservation programs, and a third from nutrition programs, which represent three-fourths of the USDA budget. Conservation programs would be reduced by 17.6 percent at $11.3 billion. Lugar's press release said nutrition program eligibility loopholes would be closed to save $13.9 billion with a two percent reduction.
The Lugar-Stutzman bill would end direct payments to farmers, counter-cyclical payments, the ACRE program and marketing assistance/loan deficiency payments.
“This bill provides good farm and nutrition policy and saves $40 billion,” Lugar said. “Farm Bill politics has long frustrated reform efforts by myself and others. The current urgency to meet our deficit reduction targets gives us the chance to make smart changes. We offer our bill as a thoughtful option for consideration by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, as well as the Congressional Deficit Reduction ‘Super' Committee charged with making real federal spending cuts by the end of the year.”
“Farmers recognize the need to tackle our nation's crippling $14.7 trillion debt,” Stutzman said. “So, our bill saves taxpayers $40 billion. Long before I came to Washington, I've opposed the direct payments that handcuff farmers and manipulate markets. I'm happy to introduce legislation with Senator Lugar that ends those direct payments. After talking with Hoosier farmers, we've proposed genuine safety nets-options that give confidence and expand opportunities for farmers, not outdated systems that restrict their options.”
The REFRESH bill would establish an aggregate risk and revenue management (ARRM) program that allows producers to protect between 90 percent and 75 percent of their expected crop revenue. All farmers would be able to purchase supplemental revenue insurance that is underwritten by the USDA Risk Management Agency.
Lugar and Stutzman propose repeal of the mandatory federal sugar program, allowing for market pricing of sugar. Their bill replaces dairy price support (DPPSP) and milk income loss contract (MILC) programs with a voluntary margin protection program that covers 80 percent of the producers' production history when margins fall below $4 per hundred-weight.
Lugar said REFRESH would close eligibility loopholes, eliminate government overlap and improve the efficiency of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“The savings of $14 billion comes without devastating the program used by as many as 43 million low-income Americans in need of additional food security,” he said.
A complete bill summary and bill draft may be found at www.lugar.senate.gov and www.stutzman.house.gov.
This week's guest on Open Mic is Bill Buckner, President and CEO of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Board Chair for the National Soil Health Institute. In this interview, Buckner outlines a national effort to develop a standardized condition rating and testing for soil health. A standardized numeric value could help producers embrace agronomic practices, technology and cropping systems which could eventually be tied to risk protection plans and crop insurance as well as the overall value of farmland. With a common goal of advancing agriculture Buckner says the National Soil Health Institute is leading a chorus of farmers, scientists, farmers and industry toward better soil health and a stronger agriculture industry.