The only certainty about the next Farm Bill is that it will be cheaper than the current one.
Already, congressional agriculture leaders have indicated their willingness to reduce agricultural expenditures by $23 billion. Whether deeper cuts are instituted will depend on the deficit-reduction “super committee” made up of six Republicans and six Democrats from both the Senate and House of Representatives. The super committee has been working in recent weeks — mostly behind closed doors — to come up with a debt-reduction package by Nov. 23.
On Monday, former Texas congressman Charlie Stenholm weighed in on the matter.
In an AgriTalk radio interview, Stenholm said the agriculture committees in Congress may not have a choice but to follow what the super committee decides on spending.
Stenholm, who now serves as senior policy advisor for the law firm Olsson Frank and Weeda, says the possibility exists for a good safety net for farmers, even with the $23 billion in cuts offered by ag leaders. But it depends on where the cuts are made and which programs are affected.
“There is a lot of uncertainty on this,” Stenholm said.
There is the uncertainty whether the recommendations of the super committee will be passed by Congress. And, there is also uncertainty whether the rank-and-file members of the agriculture committees will accept the recommendations of their leaders.
“Twenty-five of the 46 (members) on the House Ag Committee that are going to be asked to do this in the next few weeks have never written a Farm Bill,” Stenholm said. “That worries me more than any other aspect of this discussion.”
All of this has created a “very alarming environment,” he said. “Our political system in Washington is absolutely broken.”
While in Congress, Stenholm served on the House Agriculture Committee. He served as the committee's ranking Democrat his last eight years until 2004.
The current Farm Bill is set to expire in September 2012.