Any Extension of Controversial SURE Program Could Cost $1 Billion Per Year

July 25, 2012 01:24 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Proponents push for SURE extension as part of possible solo drought aid package aimed at livestock producers

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The odds are shifting to the upside regarding a possible House vote on a solo drought assistance bill after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said "We understand the emergency that exists in rural America. And we will address it as soon as possible."

Separate bills have been introduced in the Senate (S 3384) and House (HR 6167) that would reinstate three expired livestock disaster aid programs, but also a controversial crop aid program called the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE). That program is controversial for several reasons, including a potential price tag of $1 billion year, a separate $100,000 payment cap for the program, the inability of the expired program to make payments on a timely basis, and a General Accountability Office (GAO) report listing several criticisms. Link to GAO report.

SURE extension is not part of new farm bill process. In the Senate-passed new farm bill, as well as the farm bill that cleared the House Ag Committee, the lapsed livestock disaster aid programs were retroactively reinstated, but not the SURE program. But Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) recently introduced a bill that would reinstate SURE for 2012 crops, with tweaks to make the payments on an accelerated basis. The SURE extension is also part of a companion House bill introduced this week.

Timeline uncertain. While House GOP leaders have come around regarding support for an ag disaster relief bill, the timeline for action is still murky. The House floor agenda could always be altered, but leaders next week want to take up tax cut extensions and a trade bill dealing with Russia.

Senate wants to use disaster aid as leverage for new farm bill. The Senate approach to a separate ag disaster aid bill is also uncertain, as Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has instead pushed for the House to take up a new farm bill, which includes extending the expired livestock disaster aid program, but not SURE. It appears some farm-state lawmakers are using the need to extend the lapsed livestock disaster aid programs as leverage to get the House to bring up its version of a new farm bill.

The ag disaster linkage to putting pressure on the House to debate its farm bill is the topic of an editorial in today's Washington Post, which wrote, "Politically, though, the brutal weather is manna from heaven for the agriculture lobby and its amen chorus on Capitol Hill. At last — the perfect excuse to pressure House Speaker John Boehner into speeding consideration of a subsidy-rich, five-year farm bill!" Link to editorial.

Possible need for budget offsets. Another issue regarding any solo ag disaster aid is the likelihood that the aid would need budget offsets. In that regard, some lawmakers and others are pushing an extension to the current farm bill, with a likely reduction but no elimination of direct payments, enough to at least offset the cost of extending the three lapsed livestock disaster programs, but perhaps not the SURE program. But veteran contacts say if the ag disaster aid bill gets a vote, a SURE extension will likely be part of the package.



NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






Back to news


Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer