Sen. Mike Johanns has grave reservations about the Farm Bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Johanns says the measure that he voted against takes a step backward from the progress made on farm policy last year.
Johanns tells colleagues on the committee the bill doesn’t save the money it claims and takes a step backward in farm policy.
“It contains what I would describe as a gimmick. It hides $3.1 billion in payments right outside the ten-year budget window,” according to Johanns. “It reminds me of the days back when I was governor of Nebraska. Times were tough and somebody was suggesting, well we could balance the budget by delaying the school aid payment until the next fiscal year.”
Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture, says the bill also double counts $6.4 billion in savings already contained in a bill signed into law in 2011. He claims the bill would only cut spending by 1.5%, saving just $15 billion over 10 years.
The biggest disagreement Johanns has, though, is on the philosophy the bill expresses.
Last year, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a measure that would move farm policy away from government payments and toward a more market-driven system. It relied on crop insurance to allow farmers to better manage their risks.
The committee measure would double target price payments from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion. The target price for rice would increase by more than 25%. Peanut prices would rise 6%.
Johanns says the committee measure gives the federal government too large a role in setting crop prices, interfering with the markets. He says no farmer has pleaded with him to restore the government’s role in setting crop prices.
“Farmers just basically said the basic crop insurance program that we have is working, try to do everything you can to sustain that program,” says Johanns.
The Ag Committee approved its version of the Farm Bill on a 15-to-5 vote.