In preparation for writing the 2012 Farm Bill, the American Enterprise Institute has released a series of papers on how to best restructure agricultural policy, and save perhaps expenditures over the next ten years. The papers address: crop insurance, crop subsidies, conservation, ethanol, sugar, disaster aid, R&D, dairy, subsidies, global poor, trade, and Title I.
One report says the direct payment program has no social equity justification. Abolishing the program would save $50 billion over the next ten years. And as for crop insurance another report says the U.S. federal crop insurance program has become one of the most expensive ways of transferring income to farmers.
Yet another report says the financial stress suffered by dairy farms in recent years underscores the fact that U.S. dairy policy does not protect dairy farms from market risks; in many respects, dairy policy magnifies those risks.
And another report states that price supports and countercyclical payments are likely to remain irrelevant for commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, but it may become relevant again for cotton rice and wheat.
Other groups are beginning to form policy positions for new farm legislation. The Board of Directors of the National Association of Conservation Districts has approved a set of principles to guide the association's advocacy efforts in advance of the 2012 Farm Bill. NACD President Gene Schmidt says the principles support conservation programs that are resource-driven and locally-led, with sufficient flexibility to direct funding to local priorities and resource concerns. He says these programs are crucial to the health and viability of agriculture and rural America.
The principles call for a Farm Bill Conservation Title that: 1/ Is resource-driven and locally-led. 2/ Fully funds technical assistance needs for planning and program implementation. 3/ Maintains the funding commitment made in the 2008 Farm Bill. 4/ Consolidates NRCS Farm Bill conservation programs to improve efficiency. 5/ Maintains a commitment to conservation practices on working lands that produce much-needed food, feed, fuel, and fiber. 6/ Strengthens education and outreach efforts to enhance producer knowledge of conservation systems. 7. Supports sustainable and renewable energy from agriculture and forestry. And 8. Supports new approaches to conservation and new conservation technologies.
The principles were approved this week during the NACD 2011 Summer Board Meeting and Legislative conference in Washington, D.C.
Also in Washington this week, the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry held a public hearing Wednesday to review energy and forestry programs within the subcommittee's jurisdiction in preparation for writing the next Farm Bill. Subcommittee chairman Representative Glenn 'GT' Thompson, R-Pa., explained that the farm program audits provide us a detailed, comprehensive view of these programs to ensure that each title is being carried out in a manner consistent with its purpose.
"In a difficult fiscal environment, we must make efficient use of taxpayer dollars while also making certain that our farmers, ranchers, and forest interests remain competitive and are able to offer an affordable supply of both domestic food and energy," Thompson said. "The information shared today brings us a step closer to understanding the committee's priorities as we draft these new titles and move forward with the next farm bill."
Meanwhile, Ranking Member Tim Holden, D-Pa., noted that the energy title of the 2008 farm bill was crafted to encourage this country to move toward energy independence. He says as they begin to discuss reauthorization of these programs they must all work together to make certain taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and as intended.