The director of the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday pushed back against concerns that its analysts are taking too long to deliver farm bill cost estimates to the House and Senate Ag committees and said it wasn’t practical to add staff to deal with the legislation.

“For this reauthorization of the farm bill, CBO’s analysts have already provided more than 1,000 estimates. CBO expects to furnish hundreds more in the coming weeks and many more later in the legislative process,” CBO Director Phillip Swagel said in a letter to the Ag committee leadership

The chairs and ranking members of the committees wrote Swagel on July 10, expressing concern about the “volume of outstanding requests” for cost estimates and pressing him to increase the number of analysts working on the farm bill.

Swagel was urged to “reorganize staff to prioritize farm bill requests, hire or contract additional staff, or find available qualified professionals who can be assigned on detail.” 

Lawmakers and staff ask CBO to analyze the cost of numerous ideas and modifications in the course of preparing legislation to see if it can fit within the necessary budget parameters. 

In his response to the committees, Swagel said analysts from several different divisions were already assisting in preparing cost estimates for farm bill issues. He specifically mentioned nutrition programs and the Conservation Reserve Program as issues that have been the subject of CBO work. 

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Staff members in the Budget Analysis Division are helping with nutrition issues, while “analysts in CBO’s Financial Analysis Division are assisting in modeling the effects of the Conservation Reserve Program, conducting outreach to experts on commodity programs, and helping in other ways,” he wrote.

Staff members in the Labor, Income Security and Long-Term Analysis divisions are assisting in the analysis of nutrition programs, while the Tax Analysis Division is “helping develop and analyze data on the income of people who receive assistance under the farm bill,” Swagel wrote.

As for the idea of bringing on additional staff for the legislation, Swagel wrote, “Securing additional personnel from outside the agency to work on the farm bill is not practical at this point, as it would delay work on the current legislation because of the time it would take to bring new people up to speed on CBO’s estimating models and procedures.”

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