CBO estimates Senate farm bill savings

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The U.S. Senate’s proposed version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 would cut direct program spending by an estimated $23.6 billion over a 10-year period, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report.

The 20-page report outlines nearly a 75 percent savings from reduced commodity subsidies from 2013 to 2022. The changes are largely driven by moving away from subsidies to government-backed crop insurance. But add up all of the farm bill spending and CBO projects a 10-year total of $969 billion.

The Senate bill reallocates about $33.6 billion to new revenue and crop insurance options, including the controversial Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) plan. CBO estimates it at $28.53 billion for the 10-year period and would cover a narrow band of potential losses, but would be financed entirely by the government.

Corn and soybean growers have supported the ARC option, which would be based on a five-year price average. That period would be advantageous as grain prices have been strong and would guaranteed a certain security base.

The $23.6 billion in total cuts falls short of what the White House and House Republicans want to see. But in a time when bipartisan efforts are non-existent, the Senate farm bill is a positive example. At more than 1,000 pages, the bill takes the long-anticipated aim at direct cash payments for certain commodities.

Commanding less attention is the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). CBO had previously estimated its costs at $682 million over 10 years, but last week’s report outlined significantly higher farmer participation, which pushed the estimate to $3 billion. SCO participants will at least a 10 percent deductible to participate. CBO did cite that farmers face greater under SCO are greater if they choose not to participate in ARC. In essence, the two programs appeal to different individual preferences.

As for other provisions cited by CBO, cotton receives its own insurance program at $3.2 billion. A dairy program adjustment would cost $291 million, but would save $59 million over 10 years. Other spending increases would include: $780 million for energy, $647 million for research, and $360 million for horticulture (specialty crops).

Nutrition programs would be cut by $3.87 billion and conservation would drop by $6.4 billion.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., completed the bipartisan Senate farm bill prior to the Memorial Day weekend. Debate on the Senate floor could begin this week. The House has not yet released its version and significant differences between the two are expected.

“The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 represents the most significant reforms of agriculture policy in decades. The Senate’s farm bill will save taxpayers billions of dollars while helping America’s agricultural economy continue to grow,” Stabenow said. “By eliminating duplication and streamlining programs, the (Senate) agriculture committee was able to continue investing in initiatives that help farmers and small businesses create jobs.”

She said that it is time for reform and added that she wants to see a final farm bill from Congress before the old on expires on Sept. 30. “Agriculture supports 16 million jobs in our country, and it is absolutely critical to provide farmers the certainty they need by passing a Farm Bill this year,” Stabenow concluded.

For more on the CBO report, click here.

A copy of the Senate farm bill can be accessed on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s website


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