The four top leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have become their own self-appointed Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate’s versions of a new Farm Bill.
While food and nutrition programs have received the most attention because of the lightning rod nature of funding those programs, little public attention has been given to the farm policy debate within the small group of negotiators.
While they represent their respective houses of Congress, they are trying to find middle ground on resurrecting target prices, using specific prices or year to year averages, and how much money to allocate toward a single season crop insurance program versus year to year support programs.
Ohio State University agricultural economist Carl Zulauf looked back at commodity support programs in past farm bills and said countercyclical programs in the 1996 Farm Bill were 5.6 times the level of spending on crop insurance and 2.8 times crop insurance outlays in the 2002 Farm Bill.
He said, “Countercyclical programs are designed to provide assistance against multiple-year declines in price or revenue.”
Since the 2008 Farm Bill, annual spending has only averaged a half billion dollars on countercyclical programs, but over $4 billion on crop insurance, which he says is a function of the large increase in commodity prices.
“This increase has not only reduced spending on countercyclical programs as market price rose above the policy target prices but also increased spending on insurance as the value of insured crops rose.”
Zulauf says the direct payment program from the last several Farm Bills has been in conjunction with the recent period of farm prosperity, and those supports were twice the level of the supports during the period of prosperity in the 1970s.