Farm Bill Extension Cost Estimates Show Conservation Takes Hit

CBO releases 1-year farm bill extension cost estimates with disaster aid estimated at $365 million in 2013.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill with certain modifications including reinstating key livestock disaster provisions that expired in 2011 will reduce spending by $399 million over the 2013-2022 period relative to the current baseline.

The bill will likely go to the House floor for a vote this week as Congress works to provide farmers and ranchers affected by this summer's devastating drought a disaster relief plan before going home for August recess. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to evaluate the bill Tuesday at 5 pm EDT and a vote could come yet this week.

Several agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and National Farmers Union have been lukewarm to the idea of an extension and only throwing its support behind the notion if it is the next step to conference a comprehensive five-year bill before the Sept. 30 expiration date.

Specifically CBO estimated it would fund the Livestock Indemnity Program at $84 million; Livestock Forage Program at $244 million; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Bees, Fish at $26 million; and Tree Assistance Program at $13 million. Payment limitations would cut $2 million, bringing the grand total of supplemental disaster assistance at $365 million in 2013.

Because the proposal would affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Many of the changes in outlays would come at the expense of conservation programs, with $108 million total cut. In 2013 the Conservation Stewardship Program received $5 million in cuts, Farmland Protection Program -$2 million, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program slashed by $8 million, Grassland Reserve Program at $11 million in cuts and the greatest savings coming on the back of the Environmental Protection Program with a proposed $82 million in cuts.

The savings are found through capping acres allowed for conservation programs. EQIP is capped at $1.4 billion; CSP is capped at 11 million acres; FRLP Program is capped at $150 million; and WHIP is capped at $45 million. 

A conservation coalition, representing a diverse group of farm and environmental policy organizations, sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner July 30 expressing disapproval of the proposed farm bill extension.

The letter encouraged the Speaker to instead “move forward on a full Farm Bill in the coming months —one that, among other things, does not damage the ability of the Conservation Title of the bill to continue its longstanding and successful partnership with America’s farmers and ranchers to protect our nation’s exceptional soil, water and wildlife resources.”

“The House’s extension bill makes deep and disproportionate cuts to the Conservation Title of the bill to offset emergency drought payments that have been added to the extension. In fact, the Conservation Title is 30% of the farm program spending baseline, excluding nutrition programs, and 7% of the Farm Bill overall, but sustains 75% of funding cuts in this bill — most of which are concentrated in the first two years,” the letter stated.

The groups explained that it “makes little sense” to pay for the programs that conserve soil and water to make farmers and ranches more resilient to the impacts of droughts.

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