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House conservatives’ proposal: Blow up the farm bill

Congress would dismember the farm bill if it adopted the ideas proposed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, whose membership includes four of every five Republicans in the House. In a budget package, the RSC said it would sever public nutrition programs from the farm bill, eradicate major farm supports and slash federal support of crop insurance.

The package also calls for converting food stamps into a discretionary block grant with states sharing the cost of food assistance. “Calling on states to share benefit expenses would ensure careful consideration of the federal funding requested and target aid to the most vulnerable,” said the document, released last month. The RSC endorsed stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients. Its plan also advocated combining all child nutrition programs into a block grant.

By contrast, farm groups are seeking increases in the 2023 farm bill of the reference prices that determine if crop subsidies should be paid and how large the payments would be, reported DTN/Progressive Farmer last week.

For decades, farm supports and SNAP have been key elements in broad-spectrum farm bills that include food aid, export promotion, agricultural research, rural economic development and crop insurance. Some conservatives argue that splitting apart the farm bill would increase the chances to curtail spending on public nutrition. Other analysts say farm subsidies also would be imperiled. Public nutrition accounts for three-quarters of farm bill costs.

“The RSC budget is undeniably pro-farmer,” said the document. It framed the cuts in farm spending as the trade-off for a “suite of pro-growth tax reforms and deregulatory measures.”

Elimination of the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage subsidies would save $42.7 billion over 10 years, it said. Some $32 billion would be saved by subsidizing crop insurance premiums only for catastrophic losses and requiring farmers to pay 70% of the premium for that coverage, up from the current 40% for all types of crop insurance. Additional savings of more than $11 billion would be generated by barring new enrollments in the Conservation Reserve and Conservation Stewardship programs. The dairy program and export promotion programs also would be axed.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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