Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 11/15/12

Conservatives Want to Split Farm Bill

Dow Jones reported Wednesday that the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said conservatives would seek to split the farm bill into two pieces of legislation if it is brought to the floor for debate.

The RSC has championed Rep. Paul Ryan's approach of more significant cuts to nutrition programs and converting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into a block grant for states. That concept was rejected by the House Agriculture Committee, as were steeper cuts for nutrition pushed by Ryan's budget proposal earlier this year. Ryan wanted about $130 billion in nutrition cuts. The House Ag Committee approved $16 billion.

The conservative study group's comments on issues such as the farm bill and taxes reflect that wing of the GOP in the House remains unwilling to compromise with the administration or Senate Democrats on taxes or spending issues.

Splitting the farm bill would make it easier for conservative lawmakers to pass the sections of legislation that directly deal with farmers such as the commodity title, conservation and crop insurance. But such a move would also split the rural-urban coalition of farm groups and nutrition groups that have generally worked together to get a farm bill approved in the past.

It's unclear what direction House leadership wants to go with the farm bill. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., also has not spoken about the legislation or his desires for the legislation since the election.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is expected to be interviewed on the radio show Agritalk today.

Ag Scientists Speak Out on Research Funding

In a news release issued Thursday morning, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), the American Society of Plant Biologists, and the National Association of Plant Breeders urged lawmakers to act to avoid the crippling budget cuts known as “sequestration” by delivering to Congress a petition signed by more than 1350 of their member scientists and others in the research and agricultural communities.

Sequestration would reduce nondefense discretionary spending by about 8.2% beginning in January 2013. These cuts would severely impact scientific research, as most federal funding for such endeavors (from agencies such as the USDA, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Science Foundation) are part of discretionary spending budgets.

“The potential impacts of sequestration for science funding are huge,” says Chuck Rice, past president of SSSA. “It’s also going to hurt the capacity of our country to train students and be more competitive in the future. It has long-lasting effects.”

The cuts, included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, were meant to act as a motivating contingency for achieving a comprehensive deficit reduction. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was to draw up a plan to reduce the deficit by November 2011 to avoid the massive reductions ordered under sequestration. When the committee failed, the contingency was put in place. Unless Congress can agree on a comprehensive deficit reduction plan in the coming months, sequestration will go into effect in January—something the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA are calling on Congress to avoid at all costs.

“If a bipartisan agreement on the budget cannot be reached, the sequestration plan currently in place will devastate our country’s research capacity and the long-term competitiveness of the US in the global economy,” says CSSA President Jeff Volenec. “Time and time again analyses have revealed that investments in research and education have a multiplier effect.”

The petition is one of several efforts by the Societies’ members to motivate Congress. Members were also invited to sign a letter and participate in a “tweet day” earlier this year, and a website containing additional resources on sequestration is hosted by the Societies’ policy office. Through these efforts, the Societies are using multiple avenues to convince lawmakers that sequestration would affect all aspects of the agriculture community and that a deficit reduction plan is greatly needed.

“The sequestration petition is an excellent way to show broad support for science funding and to illustrate the negative impacts of non-strategic cuts to that funding,” says SSSA President Gary Pierzynski. “From an agricultural perspective, we are faced with the possibility of cuts at a time when the need for agricultural productivity is growing exponentially.”

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

Posted at 6:56AM CST 11/15/12 by Chris Clayton
Comments (9)
The calculation inherent in the sentence, "Splitting the farm bill would make it easier for conservative lawmakers to pass the sections of legislation that directly deal with farmers such as the commodity title, conservation and crop insurance," may mark the greatest shift in ag policy in several generations. Because it is a calculation, not a given. And the course of action taken by House leadership this election season was another calculation simply stated as, "Since ag is just 2% of the population, and in addition is a constituency that is going to vote Republican by a very large majority regardless, we don't have to pass a farm bill." Some may say that calculation ultimately worked, others may say it hurt some candidates, but it is simply notable that such calculations are being made with ag. And the answer to the question: Is the farm bill easier to pass without a Nutrition title? is not at all clear to me. Might it instead mean that the farm bill is then politically isolated and weakened, and an easy casulaty in the effort to shrink government? And is that in fact another calculation that fiscal conservatives have already made?
Posted by Brad Redlin at 10:50AM CST 11/15/12
How about this idea. We further split it with the third piece being "Conservation." "Conservatives" are bound to support that, right?
Posted by chris jones at 11:31AM CST 11/15/12
I think you are right Brad. Farmers have often complained about other programs being counted in the cost of the farm bill, but I fear that if isolated, there are not enough legislators who care about or understand the ag sector to pass a farm bill.
Posted by tman at 7:24AM CST 11/17/12
The intent of the Food Bill is to keep farm prices low, not to subsidize farmers. Could one percieve the cost of food to the government and the general public if their were not a Farm Bill section of the Food Bill. If prices get too high at the farm level, everybodys' brother, mother , uncle, aunt and neighbor gets into it, causing overproduction, which causes financial consequences to all concerned, which causes eventual shortages. History can give you the whole story.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:22AM CST 11/18/12
Please forgive their instead of there.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:07PM CST 11/18/12
If the intent of the farm ("Food") bill is not to subsidize farmers, what of the crop insurance premium subsidies and that big check I've been getting from FSA every year? I don't think that we have depressed prices this year and golly, I don't see everybody's uncle scrambling to get into farming. It's hard to remember we pocketed those government payments when we farmers are discussing food stamps in a public forum. Are insurance discounts and direct payments considered "entitlements" or "subsidies" or how are we justifying those? As a fiscal conservative, I need to know how to explain them to the white-haired elderly lady who sits beside me in church with her income of $426 a month. With the attitude of conservative Republicans toward the poor, I'd say that more of them (legislators) are interested in saving farm payments than food stamps because there aren't a lot of farmers among the inner city poor, but there's a lot more money on farms this year. We seem to be free market thinkers until the sky starts falling, then we run and tell a lobbyist. We are all trying to eat each others' lunches on this level while the super-rich continue to enjoy their tax cut fare. We need to start looking to the 1% and those corporations who avoid taxes by having their lobbyists work with congress to create "legal" loopholes and hide their taxable money off-shore and in Switzerland, meanwhile they are getting the protection of our U.S. military for their investments world-wide. There are also a few "farmers" who have never sat in a tractor seat but who reap huge benefits from legislation crafted to help the end of agriculture that didn't inherit or who dodged loan obligations with write-downs in the eighties. So it isn't based on fairness, it's based on power. Like my dad used to say, "It all depends on whose ox is being gored!"
Posted by Bruce Hanson at 10:38AM CST 11/23/12
You nailed down a bunch of the symptoms, Bruce.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:06PM CST 11/23/12
You nailed down a bunch of the symptoms, Bruce.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:07PM CST 11/23/12
This is a re-post from a newer topic, as the same truths seem to apply: There is no doubt we need a completely re-tooled Farm Bill. All of the "Needed Cuts" being called for, are in fact unnecessary. If anything, the system needs some stream-lining, as well as some of the undue influence currently held by Wall Street, Banking and Big Business needs to be rooted out and curtailed. (I seem to remember "Anti-Trust Laws" as being part of our system of Governance back in school.) We have a thoroughly bloated Defense Budget that's larger than that of ALL of our "Enemies" put together, yet tech-wise, they're catching up with us. We build more prison space than we build classrooms. (What!?) We have once again Federally Funded the Epic Fail "War On Drugs" at $30 Billion-and climbing. But we're cutting SNAP without a clear "Jobs Plan" and USDA Rural Development, which is one of the few Government Programs actually creating growth in the economy. Once again, we had an Election with "Change" as the "Carrot on the Stick." So...let's see some.
Posted by Ric Ohge at 11:26AM CST 11/28/12
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