WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012- There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about completing the 2012 Farm Bill this year, said American Farm Bureau (AFBF) President Bob Stallman yesterday.
He said challenges to completing the legislation include: the agricultural community not together on a risk management plan for Title I, the politics involved in an election year, the unknown final budget reduction number from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the limited number of legislative days left for Congress to actually do work.
Still, he says there's "a smidgeon of hope that it will get done this year," and wants to make sure that AFBF has a piece of the policy "pie." Although no members of Congress have yet stepped up to embrace the AFBF Systemic Risk Reduction plan, Stallman told reporters over lunch on Tuesday that AFBF's deep loss proposal is likely to become more attractive as time progresses and farm groups get the “budget reality check” from the CBO.
Stallman said the deep loss protection plan is applicable across all sectors, while multiple crop programs would be more difficult and expensive to administer.
“The main difference we’re facing in this farm bill is all the farm organizations have a different plan and we’re not together on what that plan should be,” Stallman said. “Conversations between all groups are occurring, but no one down has gotten down to the sort of discussion on what they’re willing to accept and give up.”
However, if a Farm Bill is not completed and the agriculture community has to move to “plan B” to extend the 2008 Farm Bill until next year, “plan B is a little messy.”
“It’s hard to move forward and plan without a budget number,” he said.
Stallman added that if the commodity groups cannot move any closer to a unified agreement and the timeline for writing the Farm Bill this year is further squeezed, “we’re willing to have discussions about an alternative path” to the systemic deep loss proposal.
“The AFBF board still believes our deep loss proposal represents the best policy option for the long-term,” he said.
However, Stallman acknowledged that the AFBF plan is revolutionary for farm policy by only protecting producers in the instance of a catastrophic loss and reducing crop insurance premiums by nine to 22 percent.
However, the AFBF board “would be willing to have discussions on a different form of shallow loss that sits on top of current policies,” he said. “We have to be sure that it doesn’t take so much risk out to distort the marketplace. We have a whole list of parameters we’re willing to discuss in context of a different proposal among our brethren and different commodity groups.”
Stallman explained that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have “encouraged” AFBF to keep the deep-loss protection plan on the table. While AFBF would be willing to discuss a modified shallow loss program, none of the currently proposed plans fit AFBF’s parameters.
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