By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 2 – Farm programs would be cut by $15 billion over the next decade if recommendations from the president’s bipartisan deficit commission are approved.  That's $7 billion less than earlier proposed in a draft by the Co-chairmen.
The cuts are part of a much larger plan to trim $4 trillion from the federal deficit through 2020. The commission started debating the proposed plan on Wednesday, but won’t vote on it before Friday.


At least 14 of the 18 members need to approve for the plan to be considered by Congress – a number that represents a very steep climb for many of the commission members. As of Thursday, support was likely only from nine: the two co-chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles,  Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Mike Crapo (R-ID); former OMB and CBO Director Alice Rivlin; Honeywell CEO David Cote, and Ann Fudge, former CEO of Young & Rubicam.
Delivering a Thursday surprise -- L to R, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) announce
their support for the deficit reduction plan. Photo: Agri-Pulse


The commission’s final report makes fewer cuts to farm programs than a plan released last month by the commission’s co-chairmen. That proposal would have cut farm programs by $22 billion by 2020. This most recent report cuts $15 billion, but in a nod to Conrad and a state where crop disasters are more common, $5 billion would be reinvested in a permanent agricultural disaster program. Cuts would be made in direct payments, conservation programs and the Market Access Program. Here’s the text from the report:


RECOMMENDATION 4.2: REDUCE AGRICULTURE PROGRAM SPENDING THROUGH 2020. Reduce net spending on mandatory agriculture programs by $10 billion from 2012 through 2020 with additional savings to fund an extension of the agriculture disaster fund, and allow the Agriculture Committees to reallocate funds as necessary according to their priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill.


The Commission proposal recommends $15 billion in gross reductions in mandatory agriculture programs to achieve gross savings of $15 billion programs from FY 2012 to FY 2020, of which $10 billion will be dedicated to deficit reduction and $5 billion will be redirected to extending the Agriculture disaster fund program to mitigate the need for future ad hoc disaster funding.

The Commission recommends that the savings be drawn from across mandatory agriculture programs, including: reductions in direct payments when prices exceed the cost of production or other reductions in subsidies; limits on conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP); and reduced funding for the Market Access Program. The Agriculture Committees will be responsible for revising policies to meet their priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill within the lower baseline recommended by the Commission.


In a press conference earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said agricultural spending already is being reduced through the $6 billion in cuts that his department made to crop insurance this year. Those cuts would reduce the federal deficit by $4 billion because $2 billion was reinvested in the Conservation Reserve Program.


“USDA didn’t wait for the deficit commission,” Vilsack emphasized. “We've already made a significant contribution."


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