April 23, 2014

Farm bill takes significant step, but only the first step in long process (AUDIO)

It still has a long way to go, but work on a new farm bill has taken a significant step.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a five-year, half a trillion dollar farm bill that is projected to save $23 billion.

“This is a farm bill that I think is going to work very, very well for Nebraska producers,” Johanns said in a conference call shortly after the committee approved the measure.

Johanns, a member of the committee and former Agriculture Secretary, said the bill derives its savings from a shift in philosophy, away from direct crop payments and toward risk management.

“This basically says you’re going to be a participant in the cost of this program, this insurance program,” according to Johanns “And, I just think that’s exactly where Nebraska producers are at.”

Johanns points to the Missouri River flood of last year as an example. He says many of the Nebraska farmers who lost an entire crop year made it, because they had crop insurance. It is estimated that about 80% of Nebraska farmers participate in the crop insurance program. That shift has practical effects as well. Ending direct payments and emphasizing crop insurance allows the committee to drastically cut the cost of farm programs, by perhaps as much as $16 billion.

The committee recommends a $4 billion cut to the food stamp program, which actually comprises the largest chunk of the farm bill, about 80%. The bill also proposes multi-billion dollar cuts to the conservation program.

The current farm bill expires at the end of September.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]

AUDIO: Sen. Johanns discusses the farm bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee [3 min.]