Changes are coming to United States farm policy and farm-state lawmakers indicate the time is ripe for them.
A new five-year Farm Bill proposed by the Senate Agriculture Committee will be considered in the Senate the next couple of weeks. Though it totals close to a trillion dollars at an estimated price tag of $969 billion over ten years, it would cut overall spending by approximately $23 billion.
The bill cuts costs by changing philosophy. It proposes to eliminate direct farm payments, an end to receiving checks just because a person farms.
“That, politically, is not acceptable,” Sen. Mike Johanns told reporters during his weekly conference call. “In the era of farmers going broke, because prices were so low, you could make the case for direct payments. You can’t now.”
Both Johanns and Sen. Ben Nelson sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Nelson said the proposed Farm Bill holds a lot of promise.
“I must say I’m looking at any kind of effort that we can to reduce unnecessary subsidies, pushing toward crop insurance as the solution to direct payments,” Nelson said during his weekly conference call with reporters this week.
The bill proposes an enhanced crop insurance program, costing around $3 billion annually, to give farmers a way to manage risks. Though Johanns and Nelson might favor the change, some lawmakers from the South say direct payments undergird cotton, peanut and rice farming.
The committee also proposes to cut $4.5 billion over the next ten years from the food-stamp program.
Debate on various amendments in the United States Senate could take up to a couple of weeks.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]
AUDIO: Sen. Johanns talks about the Farm Bill [3:30]
AUDIO: Sen. Nelson talks about the Farm Bill [1 min.]