Farm Bill Leaders May Face Different Budget-cutting Numbers

March 7, 2012 11:42 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Stabenow to stick with $23 billion in cuts over 10 years | Lucas waits on House GOP leadership

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

Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she planned to stay "within the structure of $23 billion" in net mandatory cuts for farm bill spending, the same level contained in the farm bill linkage to the failed Super Committee process to find $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over ten years. However, sources say House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) is waiting on a level currently under discussion among top House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Stabenow on Wednesday said, "We came together on it ($23 billion in net cuts) in a bipartisan basis after a lot of thoughtful discussion. It’s a number that is the fairest to agriculture."

Stabenow has an easier time getting her wish because Budget Chairman Ken Conrad (D-N.D.) is also an important figure on the Ag panel, and he play a major if not the major role in the 2008 Farm Bill process.

On the House side, Ryan has targeted considerably higher cuts for farm bill spending than the Senate. Last year, he proposed 10-year cuts of $30 billion to farm programs, almost $20 billion to conservation programs and $127 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He also proposed converting the food aid program into state block grants. In a voice vote, the House panel approved its Fiscal Year 2013 budget estimates and views letter to Ryan that cited the consensus reached on $23 billion in mandatory cuts that House and Senate committee leaders have said could be achieved. The breakdown for those cuts/increases were:

– $15 billion cuts for commodity program spending (largely the elimination of direct payments)
– $6 billion in conservation program spending reductions
– $4 billion in cuts for food and nutrition programs
– $2 billion in additional spending for livestock disaster programs

House Ag recommendations. On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee recommended that it be allowed to determine spending and funding changes as it works to complete a multi-year farm bill.

Commodity group farm bill preview behind closed doors in Friday meeting. The House committee will hold the first of four scheduled field hearings about the farm bill on Friday. The Senate committee will finish its fourth and final hearing on the farm bill next week and may begin writing its bill shortly thereafter. Commodity group officials will meet Friday with Senate Ag Committee staff to go over their major goals for the farm bill – ahead of their testimony to the panel next Wednesday.

Comments: I have no doubt that the Senate Ag Committee will markup its bill and get it out of the panel -- by Memorial Day. The House Ag panel will do likewise, but at a later date, and likely with a higher budget-cutting number, unless Lucas and Company are good enough salesmen to convince Boehner and Ryan. House conservatives are trying to persuade GOP leaders to set aside last summer's budget agreement and seek lower spending figures in the next fiscal year. While that concerns one fiscal year, you can see the different spending attitude in the House versus the spend-happy Senate. House Republicans could settle as early as today on a $1.028 trillion discretionary spending figure for Fiscal Year 2013, which would be $19 billion below the enacted FY 2013 cap and $15 billion below the FY 2012 cap.As for the final farm bill end zone, that will depend on whether the House and Senate leaders will give the Ag panel leaders the floor time to debate and vote on the omnibus measure. Most observers do not believe that will take place before the Nov. 6 elections, but could take place in a post-election, lame-duck session.


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






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