House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership sent a letter to the Super Committee on deficit reduction in regards to proposed Farm Bill budget cuts and a rewrite of farm programs. They recommended a $23 billion cut in Farm Bill spending over the next decade. The letter, which was signed by Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and House Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said that they would provide by Nov. 1 detailed 2012 Farm Bill recommendations on how to achieve the proposed savings.
Mary Kay Thatcher, Director of Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation says the letter outlines three major points.
"The first being that they are recommending $23 billion in cuts to programs in their jurisdiction," Thatcher said. "The second one outlining the fact that whether it's commodities or nutrition or conservation or crop insurance that we've already taken a lot of hits in our budget in those programs over the last four or five years, sort of a 'we gave at the office' reminder. The third thing says they are indeed going to write legislative proposals that will be in the Super Committee's hands by Nov. 1 to carry out the $23 billion in cuts."
And so no details are known yet on what will be targeted for cuts but Thatcher says they're getting early indication that nutrition and crop insurance will likely face minimal cuts.
"There aren't really specifics as far as how much cuts are coming to commodities versus conservation versus nutrition," Thatcher said. "Certainly the word on the street has been fairly significant that the committees are recommending elimination of direct payments and moving toward more of a revenue loss program but nothing in writing that spells out those kinds of details."
Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., the only representative of either chamber's ag panel on the Super Committee, says his main goal is to make sure that agriculture isn't discriminated against. But as far as what is happening in the Super Committee, Baucus is keeping mum.
"We've agreed among ourselves that we are not going to discuss what's going on in the room," Baucus said. "Once we start discussing things outside the room then the trust that's building up is going to start to break down."
There have also been no indications of whether the process of writing a Farm Bill by Nov. 1 would involve hearings or markups, or whether the four principal agriculture leaders would continue to keep the task to themselves.