Windmill Country: Proposed farm bill spending down – ReporterNews.com

The Congressional Budget Office has released projections on expected spending of farm programs for the current budget year plus 10 years which will serve as a guide for the writing of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The 107-page 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, released on June 29, calls for $144.9 billion in funding. An estimated $20 billion is for discretionary spending, which is $876 million below the last fiscal year.

The bill calls for $4.6 billion more than President Trump’s budget sent from the White House earlier this year, but is $8.5 billion less than the 2017 fiscal year enacted level. The bill includes funding for food and medical product safety, animal and plant health programs, rural development and farm services, agricultural trade, financial marketplace oversight and nutrition programs.

The legislation prioritizes funding for programs in rural communities, farmers, ranchers and nutrition for those in need. Policy provisions are also included to reign in unnecessary and burdensome regulations, according to the committee’s news release.

Farm bill math could create a few possible scenarios. Depending on negotiations between the budget and agricultural committees the next farm bill could be required to be budget neutral, meaning any increase in spending in one part of the bill would require a decrease in spending elsewhere in the bill or it could be required to have a net reduction.

According to the committee, these budget directives, scoring a bill (estimating the additional outlays and potential savings relative to the baseline) is one of the most critical components of farm bill development.

Many of the provisions of current farm programs move in opposite direction of commodity prices. For example, several years of lower prices have resulted in higher commodity support payments. Estimates of total farm program expenditures during the 2016 to 2026 fiscal years are now estimated at $64.2 billion dollars, up $3.5 billion over CBO’s March 2016 projections.

The distribution of farm program payments follows base acreage in the U.S. corn; soybeans and wheat represent nearly 70 percent of all program payments, while rice and peanuts represent another 18 percent. Sorghum, upland cotton, dairy, and other smaller field crops represent the remaining 14 percent of outlays. These outlays come in the form of Price Loss Coverage or Agricultural Risk Coverage payments, marketing loan benefits, and margin protection program for dairy outlays.

Government costs of the corn program have increased due to weaker prices, while other commodities were decreased due to higher market prices.

The CBO expects Congress to provide farmers with the option of re-enrolling in the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and proposes $2.8 billion for those programs and agricultural research programs.

Support of research at ARS facilities should continue as work focuses to “mitigate and stop devastating crop disease, improve food security and water quality, increase production and combat antimicrobial resistance.”

Funding for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is also included in the proposal at $906 million. The programs support control or eradication of plant and animal pests and diseases.

Conservation programs are budgeted at $904 million, $1.6 billion for farm programs like those provided by the Farm Service Agency, $2.6 billion for rural development programs, $1.038 billion for food safety and inspection programs and $2.8 billion for Food and Drug Administration programs.

Also the Commodity Futures Trading Commission allotment of $248 million, $1.8 billion for overseas food aid and to promote U.S. agricultural products, food and nutrition programs and $73.6 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or Food Stamps program.

“The safety and accessibility of our nation’s food and drug supply is of utmost importance to our economy, our quality of life, and – given the great benefit of producing necessities here at home – our national security,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said.

“This bill prioritizes funding on federal programs that support these critical industries and the farmers, ranchers, medical professionals and many others that form the backbone of our food and drug supply, which is the best in the world,” Frelinghuysen said.

By the way, the 2018 West Texas Legislative Summit, hosted by the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, will focus primarily on the 2018 Farm Bill. It will be from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Aug. 1 at the C.J. Davidson Conference Center on the Angelo State University campus. For more information and registration cost, call 325-655-4136.

Jerry Lackey is agriculture editor emeritus of the San Angelo Standard-Times. Contact him at jlackey@wcc.net.

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