The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday proposed a new U.S. farm bill that would cut spending on agriculture and food aid by $35 billion over 10 years, $11.4 billion more than the farm bill passed by the Senate in June.
Most of the additional spending cuts in the House bill would come out of reduced funding for food aid. The legislative draft calls for reductions of $1.6 billion/year in spending on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. That’s nearly four times the level of SNAP cuts called for in the Senate’s five-year farm bill.
Similar to the Senate farm bill, the House version do away with the so-called "direct payment" crop subsidy program, which costs about $5 billion/year, but would put much of those savings into new subsidy programs.
Overall, the Senate bill cuts subsidies to agricultural producers more than the House draft proposal. The House bill would cut $23.6 billion in traditional crop subsidies and add $9.5 billion for crop insurance subsidies, for a net cut of $14.1 billion. The Senate bill cuts $19.8 billion in traditional crop subsidies, but adds $5.1 billion in spending on subsidized crop insurance for a net subsidy cut of $14.7 billion.
The House Ag Committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal July 11,possibly sending it up for a full vote in the House of Representatives. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the bill has bipartisan support, and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, predicted it will be approved, although he was critical of the cuts to the food-stamp program.
"There will be challenges ahead, but we will pass the bill out of committee next week and, if the House leadership gets this right and brings the bill to the floor, we will ultimately finish the bill in September," Peterson told Dow Jones Newswires.
However, after July 11, the House has only 18 legislative days available for floor debate before the 2008 law expires on Sept 30. Analysts see low odds for enactment of a new law on time. Even if the House passes a farm bill in September, that bill must still be reconciled with the Senate bill and there may be contentious debate over food aid cuts among other things.
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.