Farm bill debate centers around money

Funding one federal farm bill program could mean cutting another. What and how would you prioritize?

By Deana Stroisch

Thirty-seven programs currently funded in the 2014 farm bill aren’t funded in the next one, according to American Farm Bureau Federation’s Mary Kay Thatcher.

The programs total $3 billion and range from rural development value-added market-development grants to biomass crop assistance.

Thatcher told FarmWeekNow.com she isn’t surprised about the $3 billion funding gap but said it will be harder to manage because there isn’t new money available. As a result, funding one program means cuts somewhere else.

“Everything is going to revolve around not having enough money,” Thatcher told Illinois farmers this week in Washington, D.C.

Farm bill policy proved to be a hot topic during the most recent convention of the American Farm Bureau held in Phoenix. Illinois farmers received a briefing this week on the status of the new legislation while meeting in Washington, D.C. The next AFBF convention takes place in Nashville. (Photo by Mike Orso)
Farm bill policy proved to be a hot topic during the most recent convention of the American Farm Bureau held in Phoenix. Illinois farmers received a briefing this week on the status of the new legislation while meeting in Washington, D.C. The next AFBF convention takes place in Nashville. (Photo by Mike Orso).

Crop insurance, Illinois Farm Bureau’s top priority, “still has the biggest target on its back,” Thatcher said.

Several bills filed would eliminate the Harvest Price Option and institute payment limits, among other things.

She expects improvements to be made to safety nets for dairy and cotton farmers, along with changes to the Agricultural Risk Coverage-County. The vast majority of Illinois farmers selected ARC-county level coverage, which is based on a five-year Olympic average of county yields and market year average price. With low commodity prices resulting in small to no payments, the Congressional Budget Office expects 85 percent of base acres to switch to Price Loss Coverage, she said.

Thatcher said there’s a 50-50 chance the House or Senate will advance a farm bill this fall. 

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