Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 05/13/13

Farm Bills Diverge on Some Key Proposals

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition offered its praise Friday for the introduction of the Farm Program Integrity Act of 2013, HR 1932. The bill by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., is the same payment limit bill offered by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. That language on payment caps is already in the Senate language of the farm bill, but not included in the House.

Beyond the broad range in target prices between the two bills, that lack of payment caps is one of the major differences between the two version of the farm bill. The payment-cap language would establish a per farm cap of $50,000 on all commodity program benefits, except those associated with the marketing loan program (loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains), which would be capped at $75,000. Thus the combined limit would be $125,000, or, for married couples, $250,000.

The $50,000 cap would apply to whatever type of program is developed as part of the new farm bill.

The bill also works on the "actively-engaged" language for receiving farm-program payments. The provision prevents non-farmers from being able to use the management loophole in current law.

What will matter with Fortenberry is whether he not only offers his bill as an amendment to the House farm bill in committee on Wednesday, but also requires a vote on the amendment rather than withdrawing it.

Conservation

The House bill ratchets down the Conservation Reserve Program to 24 million acres by 2018. The Senate bill brings it down to 24 million acres.

Also in CRP, the House bill sets aside 2 million acres for grassland protection while the Senate bill sets aside 1.5 million acres for grasslands. Priority for those grasslands can go to land expiring from CRP.

Prior to that change, the two bills were considered nearly identical in conservation language last year.

Nutrition

When you break everything down, the key dinstinction between the two versions of the farm bill comes down to cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House bill overall is projected to save $16 billion more than the Senate bill ($39 billion versus $23 billion). The House bill proposes to cut $16 billion more than the Senate from SNAP ($20 billion versus $4 billion).

Energy

The House and Senate bills have far different takes on the value of energy programs. The House bill eliminates mandatory funding for energy programs and lowers discretionary spending levels. The Senate bill has more than $800 million in mandatory spending for energy programs.

For the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the House eliminates the Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation payments program. The Senate keeps the program, with payments potentially up to $20 per dry ton, and funds the program for up to $19.3 million annually.

Regulatory issues

The House includes language from H.R. 935, which would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and the Water Pollution Control Act to eliminate duplicative permitting requirements for pesticide applications. The Senate mark does not include that language.

The House bill also would go further by preventing the EPA from modifying or canceling an approved pesticide based on scientific opinions from the National Marine Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill would require "unbiased, external scientific peer review" of those opinions.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 6:40AM CDT 05/13/13 by Chris Clayton
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