February 19, 2014
Last week, the Senate voted 95-3 to pass a House-passed bill that reverses a $6 billion cut to cost-of-living increases (COLA) in military pensions. The cut was included in last year’s bipartisan budget deal. To pay for the restoration of funds, Congress chose to extend automatic, across-the-board cuts to direct spending (also known as mandatory spending) for an additional year to 2024.
These automatic cuts were first established in the Budget Control Act of 2011, and were supposed to end in 2021; however, last year’s budget deal extended sequestration to include 2022 and 2023.
By extending sequestration for another year, the COLA deal cuts farm bill mandatory conservation funding by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2024, though the exact amount is difficult to determine given that the Congressional Budget Office has not released its estimates of baseline spending in 2024.
Aside from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), sequestration would be applied to all of the mandatory conservation programs created or modified by the 2014 Farm Bill, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program as well as new Farm Bill programs such as Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Even larger cuts would be made to farm bill commodity program payments in 2024—taking cuts out of the programs that farm bill negotiators carefully crafted over the last three years. In contrast to the commodity programs, crop insurance subsidies, as with CRP, would continue to be exempt from sequestration.
NSAC strongly opposes using repeated extensions of sequestration to pay for current-year legislation. Sequestration itself is a careless and irresponsible deficit reduction tool, and it deserves to be eliminated. Moreover, the very idea of paying for current spending by cutting funding in 2024 is foolish, given that Congress could choose at any point to eliminate sequestration entirely. It is our sincere hope that Congress comes to its senses and quickly ends this practice.