June 18, 2010
On June 17, in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill, the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee held a hearing on U.S. farm safety net programs. Jim Miller, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services testified along with Jonathan Coppess, Farm Service Agency, and Bill Murphy, Risk Management Agency. You can view the Under Secretary’s opening statement here.
Subcommittee ranking member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) challenged the Risk Management Agency’s plan to cut funding to crop insurance companies by $6 billion. The agency proposed to allocate some of those freed-up funds to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). However, the CRP already receives mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill legislation and concern was raised that the agency’s plan could jeopardize the 2012 Farm Bill baseline.
Representative Moran also raised concern about the timing for CRP sign-up. Miller said that the USDA would publish an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the Federal Register early next week, which would be followed by a 30 day “no action” period. For farmers with expiring CRP contracts, this timeline pushes re-enrollment back until August, at best. As Moran bemoaned, this leaves precious little time for farmers to tear up cover crops and plan for planting, if necessary, should they not be re-enrolled in CRP.
NSAC is extremely concerned about the Administration’s decision to pay for a new CRP sign-up through savings from the renegotiation with crop insurance companies. Congress already provided the funding for CRP in the farm bill. Having the Administration pay for it again via the crop insurance deal is, in essence, paying for the program twice. Were it to become a precedent, it would in essence mean USDA and the White House could ignore conservation (or other) funding decisions made by Congress and simply cut funding administratively. This is very bad policy, and our hope is the Agriculture Committees and congressional leadership will make it clear to the Administration it should not happen again.