Sen. Mike Johanns admits to being surprised by revised numbers on how much a proposed new Farm Bill might save, but says the new numbers must prompt lawmakers to look for new savings.
Johanns and others trumpeted big savings in the Senate-approved Farm Bill, but the Congressional Budget Office has revised the numbers, greatly reducing the expected savings. The CBO now estimates that the Farm Bill approved by the Senate last year will save $11 billion over 10 years, not the $23 billion first thought.
“We are going to have to sharpen the pencil all across-the-board on the Farm Bill,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters on a conference call.
The CBO has also slashed the savings expected in the Farm Bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee from $35 billion over the next decade to $27 billion. The Farm Bill never made it to the full House for debate. The old bill, approved in 2008, has been extended until September.
The Farm Bill authorizes massive expenditures, most unrelated to agriculture. In total, the bill would spend $100 billion annually.
While the bill sets out agriculture policy for the nation, it also contains programs to protect erodible land and promote rural development. Its largest section, by far, funds the food stamp program, which officially goes by the name Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. SNAP makes up roughly 80% of the total cost of the Farm Bill.
In explaining the cut in expected savings, the CBO stated that SNAP savings were too optimistic and that fluctuating crop prices make savings on agriculture programs difficult to gauge.
Johanns has become a co-sponsor on a bill sponsored by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts that purports to saving as much as $36 billion by closing loopholes and eliminating duplication in the food stamp program. Johanns says the bill needs some work and he will have more input if he is a co-sponsor.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:35]