Farm bill’s beauty in eye of beholder

02/03/2014 04:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

Heritage also explains that while some bad subsidies and program were removed, lawmakers replaced them with even riskier taxpayer-funded programs. The inclusion of the Senate’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program is of deep concern. An initial CBO score suggested the average cost of about $2.9 billion per year, but an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute found the program “could cost as much as $7 billion annually based on the 15-year historical average price.” The inclusion of the House’s Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program is similarly problematic, setting the baseline for these commodity prices higher than what would be necessary to cover major losses. These baseline scoring gimmicks could wipe out all the “savings” that negotiators are touting in the conference report.

The bill contains many smaller provisions too. For example, in a win for Senate negotiators, it will include $881 million in mandatory funding for the Agriculture Department renewable energy and biofuels programs. According to E&E News, the bill would also, for the fist time, “make renewable chemicals eligible for funding under biorefinery and biomass assistance programs and support crops grown purposefully for the bio-based products industry.” Finally, farmers are currently carrying far less debt compared to their very strong assets. Net farm income is expected to reach “a remarkable $128.2 billion this year – the highest level since 1973,” making the aforementioned farm programs all but insanity The “farm” bill means more expenses for taxpayers and higher costs for consumers. It means more unnecessary government dependence for wealthy farmers and food stamp recipients."

 

TK: While the specialty crop industry now has more support from the government than contained in a farm bill of 20 years ago, there is certainly no feeling that the specialty crop industry is becoming dependent on federal largesse. Instead, the industry perception is that specialty crop growers are receiving investments in research, nutrition and risk management that are more in keeping (but still somewhat lacking) with its standing in U.S. agriculture.



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