Misguided Farm Bill Shortchanges Rural America

The recent proposal for a farm bill was written for inclusion in larger budget-cutting legislation. When that stalled, the farm bill stalled. That is fitting. This farm bill is not worthy of advancing.

Its elements include:

  • Limits on payments to large farms for low prices are 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 crop insurance premium subsidies.
  • Actual spending on federal farm, disaster, and crop insurance programs is cut by less than 1 percent, compared to 2010. Subsidies for many of the biggest farms will grow due to more spending on uncapped crop insurance premium subsidies.
  • The bill eliminates the direct payment program, which has been criticized for providing payments in high price years. But crop insurance is the more expensive program, and it actually provides its highest subsidies in high crop price years. That’s because it costs more to insure $6 corn than $4 corn. And the federal government pays 60 percent of the premium.

 

Here is the bottom line. If one corporation farmed your entire state, the federal government would pay 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre in every year – the better the year, the bigger the subsidy.

The bill reduces future enrollments in conservation programs. Total conservation spending would still grow as more farmers enter the landmark conservation programs of recent farm bills. But many conservation-minded farmers would be locked out. Conservation spending would be held to one-half of crop insurance and farm program spending, in spite of record high crop prices.

The rural development cuts would be devastating. 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. Total rural development spending – which includes both farm bill spending and annual appropriations – has already fallen by more than one-third since 2003.

This farm bill, together with recent appropriations legislation, eliminates funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program – the one USDA program supporting loans, training, and business counseling for rural small business. Beginning farmer assistance is also reduced.

This farm bill does not reflect the priorities of rural America. It does not support the thousands of rural communities fighting to create a future. It cuts the programs that help create good jobs. Increasing subsidies for mega farms to drive out smaller operations, while slashing investments in our people and future, does not reflect the values of rural America.

This farm bill deserves to die. Thankfully, it has been set aside, at least for the time being.

Contact Chuck Hassebrook for more information - 402.687.2100 or chuckh@cfra.org.

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