Farm-state legislators agreed to cuts in crop insurance with assurances that the program’s funding would be restored next year. Now, instead, some members of Congress are looking for $24 billion in additional cuts to the farm bill.
First it was the Ag Lobby’s inability to pass a farm bill in the usual time frame. Then it was doubts that the Renewable Fuel Standard could be kept on track for continued growth and market share of ethanol. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products was quickly abandoned by many farm-state members of Congress when Canada and Mexico alleged economic harm to domestic beef markets and exports.
During the discussion of COOL, stalwarts like Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan offered to support COOL with a voluntary label without reopening the entire farm bill while others around her suggested the opposite. That strategy was rejected because it was a well known fact that many in Congress wished to make drastic cuts, and the best way to do that would be by using a contentious issue like COOL to create an opportunity to rejigger the whole lot.
Though COOL hasn’t offered an opportunity for revisionists, delayed government funding appropriations and a subsequent hasty agreement seems to have opened the farm-bill flood gates. Farm-state legislators agreed to $3 billion in cuts to all-risk crop insurance to get the funding bill passed, promising anxious farmers they’d restore cuts to the program next year.
But … no sooner than the ink was dry on the president’s signature for the budget deal, more cuts and revisions to farm programs have been proposed.
Now it looks as though Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and House Ag Committee chairman Mike Conaway of Texas (in an ironic twist both advocated repeal of COOL) may have a hard time making good on promises to restore crop insurance funding. That’s because even more proposed cuts to the Ag budget totaling about $24 billion seem to be coming out of the woodwork, including payment limitations on big farms, as supporters of nutrition assistance funding bar the doors to further cuts there.