Draft Farm Bill Questions Raised

November 21, 2011 02:47 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

What's next for the farm bill if the not-so-Super Committee fails to even deliver a proposal?

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

Omg. Omg. Omg. You mean all that secretive farm bill work may actually be up for new discussion and true debate if the Super Committee process fails?

And even if there is a last-ditch, Hail Mary, agreement by not-so-Super Committee members, veteran farm bill observers know that writing a farm bill is just the start of the process. If the language and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring are revealed (based on success or failure of the Super Committee charged with debt reduction), farm bill analysts may finally have the information to provide some impact assessment, implementation issues, but also raise specific questions.

If the following queries are allowed to be answered, they will test the true equity and balance of the secret, behind-closed-door process of this omnibus farm bill exercise.

The following are the initial questions farm bill observers have indicated they want answers to if and when official farm bill language and CBO scoring estimates are available:

  • If the Super Committee fails, or does not accept the as yet unseen farm bill package, what does that mean for the farm bill – regular order next year? Also, how different would the markup documents look like in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees next year as compared with the draft Senate Ag Committee document floating around?

  • Does the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) for cotton have any payment cap? If not, how would a similar cap set for the ARC impact planted cotton acres?

  • What determined the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) payment cap of $105,000?

  • Relative to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring, what were the changes in acreage planted estimates for major crops, and their season average price estimates from the 2008 Farm Bill to the new farm bill proposals? This would help determine whether the changes will, as most expect, lead to WTO member challenges, and not just from Brazil.

  • What was used to determine the increases in target prices?

  • What is the difference between the corn and sorghum target prices and does that difference vary from past farm bills? If so, why?

  • What are CBO's estimates, by crop, of producers taking the ARC or the target price option for those commodities with a choice?

  • What is the impact of including prevented planting acres in the shallow loss program?

  • What are the per-year CBO forecasts for acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during the new farm bill timeline?

  • How much funding is provided for USDA to implement the program and how does that funding compare to the 2008 Farm Bill?

  • How much funding did it take to go from county or crop reporting district to a farm calculation in determining ARC payments?

  • With crop insurance being expanded for underserved crops, including fruits and vegetables, how much funding did that take and what are specific cost estimates for fruits and vegetables?

  • How much funding did it take to adjust average county yields?

  • What is CBO's estimates of the savings from eliminating farm payments for any person or farm entity making more than $950,000 adjusted gross income?

  • Regarding dairy policy changes, what is the CBO estimate of how many producers will go into the voluntary program to provide margin-based assistance?

  • What are the CBO assumptions on farmers that will participate in the dairy gross margin program – both "big" and "small" and how much did it cost to add additional premium subsidies to attract small producers?

  • Is there an end to any farm programs prior to the end of the farm bill timeline and if so, what is the perceived budget "savings"?

  • What are the percentage baseline reductions in both percentage and dollar terms for the major program crops? Also, in terms of baseline reductions, how does that compare to reductions under straight sequestration?

  • What is the impact, both cost and program crop acreage, in going to planted rather than base acres in determining program payments?

Comments: Assuming no last-minute Super Committee package is announced, and even if it was, a farm bill package may still not be part of any such package, the behind-closed-door approach to writing a new farm bill could have a huge backlash if and when that process has to continue in a more open process, sources advise. Some farm-state lawmakers who played no role in the secretive process, outside groups and others may push things they could not get by the largely two lawmakers and their staffs who wrote the pending language – the chairs of the House and Senate Ag panels.


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






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