Nearly three weeks after their self-proclaimed deadline, leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees completed a proposal for the next farm bill and presented it to the deficit reduction Super Committee. The deal is contingent on the Super Committee reaching an agreement by this Wednesday's deadline for action, which at this time looks unlikely. Should the Super Committee fail, the Agriculture Committees next year would have to write the bill and it would be open to amendments from anti-agriculture lawmakers.
Reports indicate that direct payments, Average Crop Revenue Election program, and the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance program would be eliminated under the proposed commodity title while crop insurance would be expanded. Conservation programs would be reduced, a new dairy support program would be implemented replacing current dairy policy, and SNAP criteria could be changed.
Most Rural Development programs will continue unchanged, including the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Biobased Market Program and the Refinery Assistance Program, although blender pumps and feasibility studies were excluded from the Rural Energy for America Program.
The sugar program was continued, which drew fire from opponents. Larry Graham, Chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and President of the National Confectioners Association, says the coalition is outraged by reports that the Agriculture Committees have recommended to the Joint Select Committee, extension of the current U.S. sugar policy.
"The Agriculture Committees' proposal extends a costly government-controlled subsidy program that serves to benefit Big Sugar and other agribusiness interests," Graham said. "As other agriculture commodities are being rethought and modified, the sugar program should be thoroughly reformed to lower consumer costs and provide relief for American small businesses who are being crushed by the current, overly intrusive government program."
Meanwhile, the cotton industry is pleased that a new crop insurance program for upland cotton was included in the proposal. The Stacked Income Protection Plan would address shallow revenue losses on an area-wide basis with producer premiums offset to the maximum extent possible using available cotton program spending authority.
National Cotton Council Chairman Charles Parker says STAX provides an income safety net by making available for purchase an affordable revenue-based crop insurance program consistent with crop insurance delivery and complementary of existing crop insurance programs.