The number that you have not heard is the cost of the legislation, which is $995 billion over the course of the next 10 years, for the mandatory elements of the Farm Bill.

  1. $772 billion or 78% is for domestic nutrition assistance programs, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  2. $223 billion, is divided among various agriculture-related programs
    1. Crop insurance ($90 billion, or 9%)
    2. Farm commodity price and income supports ($63 billion or 6%)
    3. Conservation ($65 billion, or 7%)
    4. 1% of the baseline is for international trade ($3 billion)
    5. Horticulture programs ($1 billion).

Monke says the budget situation is more difficult and uncertain this year than prior farm bill debates because of the federal budget, and he says, “Several high-profile congressional and administration proposals for deficit reduction are specifically targeting agricultural programs with mandatory funding. Across-the-board reductions to most farm bill programs also could occur in 2013 unless Congress avoids an automatic budget sequestration process.”

The largest part of the farm bill has been growing rapidly. The SNAP or nutrition program was only 67% of the 10-year total in 2008, but it is 78% of the 10-year total in the current year’s appropriation. That is the result of the increased needs for food assistance. At the same time, crop insurance outlays have also risen because of the higher commodity values. And also at the same time the commodity program outlay has fallen because higher market prices have eliminated the need for counter-cyclical funding.

The House Agriculture Committee was supposed to report by April 27 which programs in the agriculture budget it was going to cut to meet the mandated $33.2 billion in reductions. That mandate had come from the House Budget Committee. There has been no word on that occurring; however subcommittees are in the middle of their final hearings before assembling their farm bill proposals.

Independent of those requested cuts, the House Budget Committee has asked for $179 billion in cuts over 10 years in the funding jurisdiction of the House Agriculture Committee.

Summary

Agriculture Committee members on Capitol Hill are working on the 2012 Farm Bill, but their focus is on cutting programs, not on expanding programs. In fact, the proposals all vie for the most that is being cut from the farm bill. There will be a combination of cuts of mandatory programs, such as nutrition, crop insurance and commodity programs, along with cuts being made in annually funded discretionary programs.