here's what rural affairs says on farmbill
Lyons, NE - Today the Center for Rural Affairs announced their opposition to the farm bill agreement reached by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to be submitted to the Super Committee - the House and Senate Joint Committee charged with reducing federal budget deficits.
“The farm bill proposal by congressional agriculture committee leaders represents the worst aspects of federal policy,” said Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “It increases subsidies for the rich and powerful and cuts investment in the future of rural America, jobs and opportunity for rural people.”
“The growing cost of crop insurance subsidies to mega farms was left unchecked,” Hassebrook continued. “If one corporation farmed an entire state, the federal government would pay 60% of its crop insurance premiums on every acre in every year - the better the year, the bigger the subsidy."
“Moreover, the rural development cuts are devastating,” said Hassebrook. “Small business, small town and rural community development would be cut to less than one-tenth of the average of the last two farm bills.”
According to Hassebrook, all funding has been eliminated for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program – the one USDA program supporting loans, training and counseling for rural small business. Beginning farmer and rancher assistance was also reduced. However, this farm bill proposal was written for inclusion in larger budget cutting legislation and if that stalls, so does this farm bill.
“That’s fitting,” added Hassebrook. “This farm bill is not worthy of advancing. This bill deserves to die.”
Hassebrook further explained concerns about key elements of the proposal, including:
- Limitations on payments to large farms for low prices are nearly doubled to $210,000. Gaping loopholes are left in place. A larger share of payments, including virtually all cotton subsidies, would be provided through uncapped annual crop insurance premium subsidies.
- Actual spending on federal farm, disaster and crop insurance subsidies will be cut by less than 1%, compared to 2010. For the biggest farms, average subsidies will grow as a result of higher payment limitations and the shift to more reliance on uncapped crop insurance premium subsidies.
- The bill eliminates the direct payment program, which has been criticized for providing the same subsidy in high price years as in low price years. But crop insurance is the more expensive program and it actually provides higher subsidies in high price years. That’s because it cost more to insure $6 corn than $4 corn. And the federal government pays 60% of the premium.
- The bill reduces future enrollments in conservation programs. Total conservation spending would continue to grow as more farmers enter the landmark conservation programs of recent farm bills. But many conservation minded farmers would be locked out of those programs and conservation spending be held to one-half of farm subsidies, even with record high crop prices.
“Any serious reform of federal farm programs must cap federal crop and revenue insurance subsidies to mega farms,” said Hassebrook. “They are the most expensive element of farm programs, costing $7 billion annually. And this proposal ensures that these subsidies remain completely unlimited, covering every acre, every year, no matter how large a farm operation gets.
“This legislation does not reflect the priorities of rural America. It does not address the needs of the thousands of rural communities fighting to create a future for the next generation of rural people facing unemployment through no fault of their own,” Hassebrook concluded. “Increasing subsidies for mega-farms while slashing investments in our people and our future does not reflect the values of rural America.”