An update yesterday at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Blog stated that, “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its first snapshot of the budget projections for 2014 and beyond on Tuesday. The snapshot includes projections for federal farm bill spending. The final version of the projections, which will be published in late March, will be the version that is used for determining the costs and savings of competing budget resolutions and farm bill proposals to be debated later this year. As a general rule, though, there are only rarely big differences between the early snapshot and the final projections.”
The NSAC update noted that, “The 2012 debate on a new farm bill used the March 2012 CBO baseline as its measuring rod. Compared to that March 2012 baseline, several items stand out in the new version.
“First, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as the food stamp program, is projected to decline in cost by almost $8 billion in the next five years and by nearly $12 billion over the coming decade, relative to last year’s projection. Those are decreases of 1.9 and 1.5 percent, respectively.”
“Second, CBO projects a decline in the cost of the crop insurance program, by close to $3 billion over the next decade relative to last year’s projection. The insurance subsidies would still cost close to $9 billion a year, according to CBO.”
Yesterday’s NSAC analysis pointed out that, “Third, the current suite of commodity programs are projected to increase in cost by $1.6 billion over the next 10 years relative to last year’s projection. The increase is largely due to projected increases in Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) payments for corn, soybeans, and wheat and projected increases in counter cyclical payments for cotton. Dairy program costs drop dramatically after the current one-year extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program — included as part of the short-term farm bill extension enacted at the beginning of January — expires at the end of this year.”
Kevin Robillard reported yesterday at Politico that, “Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus wants to protect an estate tax reduction from any deal averting the fiscal cliff, according to his hometown newspaper.
“Baucus told the Great Falls Tribune in an interview Sunday that he wants to keep the Bush-era rate for estate taxes in order to protect ranchers and farmers who pass their properties on to their children.
“‘…Baucus is working to preserve a reduction in estate taxes that exempts the first $5 million of an estate’s value for individuals and taxes the remainder at 35 percent,’ the paper wrote, but didn’t include direct quotes from Baucus on the topic.”
Yesterday, in his weekly column, Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) indicated that, “The estate taxcurrently provides an exemption for all estates valued at $5 million or less. Anything valued in excess of $5 million is taxed at a rate of 35 percent when it is passed to beneficiaries. If this tax policy is left unaddressed, those rates will significantly change come January. The exemption will drop to $1 million, with anything above that taxed at a staggering 55 percent. A $1 million threshold might seem like a lot, but rising farmland prices are pushing the value of ag operations into the stratosphere. The average price for an acre of farmland has ballooned from $1,503 in 2010 to $2,425 today, according to the University of Nebraska Department of Agricultural Economics. Nebraska’s average farm size is 966 acres. Thus, one could estimate the average farm value based on land alone at more than $2.3 million, well above the lowered exemption.
“Farmers and ranchers, many of whom have had land in their families for generations, should not be forced to pay Uncle Sam more than half the value of their estate. And producers should not be forced to sell land to avoid the impacts of the fiscal cliff. Unfortunately, I’ve already heard from Nebraskans who are facing this very dilemma.”
David Shepardson reported yesterday at The Detroit News Online that, “Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she is optimistic Congress will pass disaster assistance for farmers facing a record drought if the House doesn’t approve a farm bill.
“The Lansing Democrat and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said she’s been working during the congressional recess to try to get the House to act on farm reform legislation.”
An update posted yesterday at The Oklahoma Farm Report Online reported that, “Work continues on the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill, and Congressman Frank Lucas took some time to speak with Ron Hays about the progress that has been made to date and how the process will continue.
“Lucas says that he has had the opportunity to read the version recently passed in the Senate. He says there are major differences in approach between the Senate and House versions.
“‘They have a bill that is very focused on crop insurance. It is very heavy on the crop revenue side which my economists on the House Agriculture Committee assure me will be good for the folks in corn and bean country in the Midwest. They’ve got a bill that is very frugal in its savings on the nutrition side. They save about $4 billion through reforms. The nutrition programs are about 80 percent of all farm bill spending. They have a bill that imposes a variety of other things, some conservation requirements on crop insurance and things like that.’”
Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would prevent Congress from considering an increase in the debt ceiling unless both the House and Senate have approved a concurrent budget resolution, something the Senate has not done in nearly three years.
“Lamborn announced his bill as the House was debating whether to accept President Obama’s request to increase the debt ceiling by another $1.2 trillion. The House voted to disapprove of Obama’s request, but the Senate is not expected to follow suit, making the debt ceiling hike inevitable.
“Lamborn said his bill would at least require a budget to be in place before these debt-ceiling increases can occur.”
Meanwhile, yesterday’s Need-to-Know Daily Email from National Journal reported that, “Asked in a mid-afternoon briefing on Wednesday if President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline would factor into ongoing negotiations to extend the payroll-tax cut and other tax provisions, a visibly angry House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said ‘all options are on the table,’ adding: ‘This fight is not over – you can count on it.’”
Forrest Laws reported on Friday at the Delta Farm Press Online that, “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ farm bill approach may no longer be a good fit for agriculture, and it certainly doesn’t fit the rice industry.
“That seemed to be the gist of the comments made at a panel on ‘Farm Policy Outlook and Analysis: Where We Are and What that Means for Rice’ at this morning’s session of the USA Rice Federation’s annual Outlook Conference in Austin, Texas.
“The mini-farm bill proposal submitted by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction included a provision for target prices that could be used to provide revenue insurance coverage for the row crop commodities.”
Josh Gerstein reported yesterday at Politico that, “The supercommittee’s failure may have unleashed a round of doom and gloom over the past week about Washington’s ability to tackle the debt problem. But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) struck a sunnier note Sunday, saying he believes Republicans and Democrats could agree to a major deficit-reduction package next year.
“‘We have a good chance of actually getting the big package, big deficit reduction in 2012,’ Schumer said on NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’, repeatedly billing his own analysis as ‘a contrarian view.’
“‘The knives … are over our heads. The Bush tax cuts expire in 2013. Sequestration goes into effect in 2013. Now that seems a year and a month away, but as we get closer and closer and closer, the pressure on both parties to come together in the middle — provided we don’t remove one of those knives, like taking defense off the table — is going to be stronger and stronger,’ Schumer said.”
Erik Wasson and John T. Bennett reported on Wednesday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The supercommittee’s failure is widely expected to punt critical decisions on taxes and spending to the lame-duck Congress in December 2012, which could end up being one of the busiest ever.
“At the top of the list are the Bush tax rates now set to expire at the end of the next year.
“Efforts to cancel or mitigate the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts triggered by the failure may also be decided in the lame-duck.”
A news release yesterday from American Farmland Trust (AFT) stated that, “A national coalition of 56 policy and advocacy organizations is urging Congress to preserve funding for essential U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs and to take additional steps to enhance soil, water quality and wildlife on agricultural land. The coalition outlined a set of key principles [PDF] that lawmakers should observe as they write the Conservation Title of the 2012 farm bill and seek ways to trim the federal deficit.
“The 56 coalition members are asking Congress to:
“- Put a high priority on funding critical conservation programs at the current baseline level of $6.5 billion a year.
- Strengthen and enforce provisions that require farmers to implement basic conservation practices in return for farm subsidies and extend them to insurance subsidies.
- Target conservation dollars where the opportunities for conservation and environmental outcomes are greatest.
- Streamline existing programs by reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and ramp up their effectiveness by linking payments to performance and focusing more on whole-farm and whole-ranch conservation systems.
- Ensure that all segments of the farming community – women, minorities and beginning farmers – have access to funding and technical assistance. “
The AFT release added that, “The 2011 Survey on Agriculture and Environment [PDF] conducted on behalf of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, shows clearly that Americans overwhelmingly view conservation as an important priority in national farm policy and don’t want to see conservation programs cut.”
Yesterday on the AgriTalk Radio program with Mike Adams, guest host and AgriTalk producer John Herath interviewed Mary Kay Thatcher, the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The interesting discussion, which can be heard here (MP3- 11:07), provided an excellent overview and analysis of current farm policy issues including: The recently passed House Appropriations Bill, the 2012 Farm bill, last week’s Senate vote on ethanol subsidies, prospects on the Senate Appropriations process, as well as federal deficit issues and the negotiations over the debt limit that are being spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden.
Robin Bravender reported last night at Politico that, “Top Cabinet officials insisted Thursday that the White House hasn’t forgotten rural America, despite critics’ claims that the administration is pursuing policies that will hurt farmers and small businesses.
“President Barack Obama signed an executive order Thursday establishing a White House Rural Council aimed at boosting job creation and economic development in rural areas.
“But key administration officials said Obama has had rural America’s back all along.”
The AP reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama plans to create a special advisory council to recommend ways to boost the economic outlook and quality of life for the estimated 60 million people who live in rural areas of the U.S., a White House official said.
“Obama was expected to sign an executive order Thursday establishing the White House Rural Council and naming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, of Iowa, to be its chairman.”
The Washington Insider section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is predicting that the budget eventually approved by the Senate will be more generous than the one introduced in the House by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and passed by that chamber before the last congressional recess.
“Stabenow said flatly that she ‘won’t accept’ the $180 billion in cuts to agriculture over the next decade that that are included in the House bill. The House-planned reductions would work out to $50 billion lopped off agricultural spending and another $130 billion in cuts to food and nutrition programs. Stabenow called the Ryan plan a ‘disincentive’ for agriculture.”
The DTN item added that, “The Senate has yet to put forward its budget proposal for fiscal 2012 and beyond, and it will come as little surprise to anyone when there are numerous differences between the spending proposals of the Republican-dominated House and the majority Democratic Senate. In the past, such differences often were resolved by splitting the difference between the two sides. The presence this year of so many fiscal conservatives in both chambers plus the horrid state of the U.S. deficit and national debt will make that meet-you-in-the-middle type of compromise exceedingly difficult to achieve.”
Tom Lutey reported over the weekend at the Billings Gazette Online (Montana) that, “The folks who raise the nation’s sugar and the corporations that make sweet treats are squaring off in Washington, D.C., over the amount of foreign sugar sold in the United States.
“The producers favor the regulatory status quo, in which U.S. agriculture policy works like a hand on a faucet, only allowing large amounts of foreign sugar into the country when American sugar struggles to meet demand. Small farms will suffer to benefit confectioners, they say.”
“Corporations argue that current rules keep sugar prices artificially high. That above-average price, they say, amounts to a sugar tax paid at the cash register that costs the U.S. $4 billion annually. The issue isn’t ‘big candy,’ they say. It’s about ‘big sugar,’ unreasonably puffed up by government controls.”
Budget Issues: Current Resolution (CR) and FY 2012 GOP Budget- Political Background
Meredith Shiner reported on Friday at Politico that, “Senate Democrats reiterated Friday they’ve reached an agreement with Republicans on a target of $33 billion in additional cuts, despite claims from House GOP leadership that they have not.
“‘I’ve heard the speaker of the House refuse to confirm that number, that’s fine. We don’t need the speaker to confirm that number at the podium,’ Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a press call, adding that as long as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was still at the negotiating table he could say what he wanted to the press.”
Janet Hook and Carol E. Lee reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Congressional leaders and the White House neared a deal Wednesday to avert a government shutdown, an agreement Democrats said would split the difference between the two parties over how deeply to cut federal spending.
“Vice President Joe Biden said that Republican and Democratic negotiators had agreed to work toward a plan that would cut $33 billion from the current-year budget. He said negotiators were discussing which programs would be cut.”