Ag Policy Blog

Economists Break Down Farm Bill Debate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Farmdoc Daily has published some assessments of the next farm bill debate detailed by 13 agricultural economists who highlighted some of the issues they see in the various titles of the farm bill.

The economists highlight the farm bill debate is being framed by lower farm prices and revenue than when the 2014 farm bill was written, as well as the 2016 election, which was underscored by rural America, and President Donald Trump's focus on trade.

"While the President's perspective on trade has caused concern, American agriculture has come to embrace a refocus on trade expansion given a mature domestic market for food and a bioenergy market that appears to have less potential than when the last three farm bills were written. The refocus on trade is also prompting discussions on the role of research and extension, particularly as it pertains to productivity," the economists wrote.

Examining the safety net, the economists asked if the dairy and cotton challenges will be resolved before the farm bill. That's a possibility after language was included in the Senate appropriations bill that would do just that. The fall crop prices also will be important to the baseline for a new farm bill.

Looking at crop insurance, the economists pointed to President Trump's budget proposing a $40,000 cap on premium subsidies and a tighter income test for eligibility. Similar proposals were offered before the 2014 farm bill was passed.

Regarding conservation programs, the briefing states, "The political environment for the pending farm bill debate will be challenging for conservation programs." There will be a continuing debate about what to do with Conservation Reserve Program acres as well.

On Rural Development, given the lessons of the 2016 election, will lawmakers protect loan and grain programs or will Rural Development face budget cuts proposed by the president's budget?

The energy title of the farm bill also "could be an easy target for budget cuts," especially given the lower oil prices and less support by the Trump administration for climate change mitigation, the economists wrote. There is a shift away from biofuel program as well.…

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