WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 –The largest U.S. farm organization asked Congress Thursday to continue the existing farm safety net structure in the 2012 Farm Bill and to make proportional spending cuts in the four titles of the legislation that comprise virtually all of the funding under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture committees.
In a package of farm bill recommendations submitted to the chairmen and ranking members of both committees, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said that lawmakers should avoid adopting any safety net program that only works well for one or two commodities - an apparent reference to the revenue-based alternatives proposed by the National Corn Growers Association and the National Cotton Council.
“[A]ll of our current programs, including direct payments, crop insurance, ACRE, target prices, and a marketing loan program should be maintained,” AFBF said, making it the first national ag group to call for the continuation of direct payments in new farm legislation. “Farm Bureau is willing to consider modifications and adjustments to these programs to make them more effective in a reduced budget environment.”
The group did not suggest a specific deficit-cutting figure for ag programs but did recommend that the commodity, conservation and nutrition titles should each shoulder a 30% share of whatever spending reduction target is established by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The balance of the cuts would come from crop insurance.
AFBF said commodity program reductions should focus on direct payments, ACRE and the dairy program. Its preference is for the Ag committees to achieve direct payment budget savings by making the payments on a smaller percentage of a farm’s historical acreage base rather than lowering payment yields. The group said ACRE payments should be reduced in the same manner.
Farm Bureau encouraged farm bill-writers to consolidate the current 23 conservation programs into a working lands program, a retirement lands program and the Conservation Reserve Program, and said the CRP should be reauthorized at a level less than its present 32 million acre cap.
On crop insurance, AFBF said any further reductions should be garnered from the “Administrative and Operating expenses of running the program and from reducing underwriting gains. We do not believe reductions should be made in farmer premium incentives.”
The 2008 Farm Bill’s permanent disaster program, known by the acronym SURE, remains a low priority for the main U.S. farm group.
“The program does not work,” it asserted, and “given the deficit situation, we believe the SURE program should be allowed to lapse and that no further support for that program or a modified SURE program should be pursued.”