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Senate Democrats' Budget Includes Farm Bill Savings

Plan boasts $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction; estimated $23 billion from Senate Farm Bill reforms

Published on: Mar 15, 2013

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Wednesday released the Senate Democrats' fiscal year 2014 budget, providing insight on the group's plans for deficit reduction from the ag sector.

The release comes on the heels of the House Republicans' proposal, and offers differences in style and depth.

While the House plan proposed a 10-year deficit reduction of $4.6 trillion and highlighted specific savings from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and farm bill programs, the Senate Dems' plan offers $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction and a projected savings of $23 billion from the Senate Farm Bill, without touching on specifics.

Plan boasts $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction; estimated $23 billion from Senate Farm Bill reforms
Plan boasts $4.25 trillion in deficit reduction; estimated $23 billion from Senate Farm Bill reforms

"Our budget supports the efforts of the Senate Agriculture Committee to write a new Farm Bill that will make significant reforms to farm programs, while refocusing support on helping farmers throughout the country manage risk," the budget text says.

Though the House plan focused on detailed cuts, the Senate plan presented the programs it plans to retain: conservation investments and cost-share programs, agriculture research for land-grand universities, and investments in clean energy.

The budget promises also a strong safety net with flexibility for the Senate Agriculture Committee to write a five-year farm bill.

The budget text explains that the 2012 Senate Farm Bill would have reformed farm programs while refocusing support on helping farmers manage risk, and would have also continued important investments in specialty crops and home-grown energy. This is why, the Senate Democrats say, they are supporting five-year farm bill reauthorization while taking advantage of spending reductions in farm bill programs.

Senate Democrats say the sequestration cuts would weaken research capabilities, hurting the competitiveness of the ag sector by making it harder to stay in the race for new crop varieties, thereby warranting an itemized budget.

Grassley pushes for 'even-handed' Farm Bill spending reductions

Sen. Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa, clarified Thursday with the budget committee that all farm bill programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will be eligible for spending cuts in the Senate budget.

Grassley has long supported regulating farm payment programs for small and mid-sized farmers, as well as limiting loopholes and including conservation and nutrition programs in spending reform.

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"Ag program reforms like my payment limits initiative will be necessary to meet goals for spending reductions," Grassley said. "And it’s only logical that all elements of farm-bill spending will need to be reduced, not just commodity programs and crop insurance, which account for less than one-fifth of all farm-bill spending."

One of his concerns, Grassley said during comments on the budget, was that while the plan intends to cut $23 billion from the farm programs, revised Congressional Budget Office estimates found only $13 billion could be saved if a bill identical to last year's Senate-passed farm bill was implemented.

A committee spokesman said in consulting with Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the budget committee believed cuts can still reach $23 billion while preserving a five-year safety net.

Overall, Stabenow said during committee markup on the Senate budget that she looks forward to the flexibility that the budget allows for working on a five-year bill.

Republican Senator from Nebraska Mike Johanns, however, said that the budget was "nothing short of a fiscal fiasco on par with Obamacare" and noted he didn't think it could be fixed.

"It's a more-of-everything proposal. More taxes, more spending, more borrowing, and more debt passed on to future generations," Johanns said.

The Senate budget committee continues markup of the bill and is expected to vote before the end of the week.