Dramatic Cuts Expected for “Food Bill” in 2012

August 9th, 2011


Category: Policy

Farm BillThe Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, a multi-billion dollar bill shaping and regulating numerous aspects of the agriculture and commodity industries, will likely be overhauled again in 2012.

Approximately twice each decade, the United States adopts a new Farm Bill—a sweeping piece of legislation creating the basis for nearly everything pertaining to the food Americans consume. Everything from America’s plan to feed the hungry to what crops farmers grow is covered. Additionally, the bill dictates federal spending and policies surrounding agriculture, nutrition and conservation programs ranging from food stamps to crop insurance.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the 2008 Farm Bill contains 15 titles covering support for commodity crops, agricultural research, horticulture and livestock, conservation, nutrition, trade and food aid, farm credit, rural development and energy and forestry.

While some feared fallout, Congress’ recent debt ceiling hike and federal budget cuts didn’t immediately impact farm programs. In fact, the bill is believed to have “no effect” on agriculture programs before 2013, Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities, told the American Sugar Alliance by videoconference August 1st.

A 12-member joint congressional super committee will spearhead efforts to amend legislation by this fall, and many predict committee members will trim current legislation by $692 million. Drastic budget cuts are expected among agencies and initiatives including the Food and Safety Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration, agricultural research and conservation.

“There are a number of those programs being put under a microscope,” states Dwayne Siekman, CEO of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. “In today’s economic climate, as time goes on, you could see cuts across the board or specifically to one program or another—right now everything’s on the table from what we hear from members of Congress.”

The new farm bill debate will begin this fall, with an expected completion near the 2012 elections or by early 2013. Much of what will be kept or eliminated depends on the votes of the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Colin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota.

“There’s a new ag committee. The chairman doesn’t know how his committee will vote,” states Joe Outlaw, an economist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and a member of the Agricultural Food and Policy Institute at Texas A&M University. “If they’re voting with the Tea Party, they’re not voting with agriculture. A number of elected officials don’t have an appreciation or understanding of agriculture. I’m trying to show committee members how important agriculture is to the people.”

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