Ag Policy Blog

Farm Programs, USDA Would Shrink Under Project 2025 Goals for Ag

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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USDA would get a lot smaller if the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 went into effect. Farm subsidies would be cut or slashed and several other USDA programs for farmers would be eliminated or reduced. Food-aid programs would be moved to the Department of Health and Human Services. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

Could Project 2025 derail the farm bill? Or could it possibly accelerate efforts to get a farm bill passed if it looks like former President Donald Trump will win the White House again?

Democrats have ramped up criticism of Project 2025 Presidential Transition Project, an effort driven by the Heritage Foundation to lay out an agenda for Trump if he wins the presidency. The report has been out there for months, but liberals are now attacking it so much that Trump now claims he has nothing to do with it.

For agriculture, Project 2025 calls on the White House to use the "bully pulpit" to demand genuine reforms to farm programs.

The agricultural chapter also reads a Republican Study Committee budget recommendation, which calls for similar cuts farm programs.

Nearly everything in Project 2025's agricultural chapter runs counter to the $1.5 trillion farm bill proposal the GOP-led House Agriculture Committee passed out of committee in May. And very little in the Project 2025 USDA chapter meshes with the two, separate Senate Agriculture Committee "frameworks" for a farm bill.

The report broadly calls on Congress to limit USDA's role to primarily focus on agricultural production and defend agriculture from "the Left" by ending "any association with the U.N. (United Nations) and other efforts to push sustainable-development schemes connected to food production."

Ideally, policies should remove obstacles to increasing farm production, but shouldn't subsidize agriculture.

-Reform Farm Subsidies: Project 2025 calls for repealing the "sugar program." Sugar doesn't receive direct subsidies but domestic prices are higher than international prices because the sugar program limits imports to protect domestic production.

Ideally, Project 2025 would also like to see the two main commodity programs repealed. Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage (ARC and PLC) are used by farmers in 22 commodity crops. While focusing on crops, Project 2025 also does not mention subsidies for dairy producers.

Any safety net, the report states, should focus on helping farmers who have been in a disaster or some other unforeseen event.

Members of Congress, particularly Republicans, have pushed for higher reference prices for producers, "putting more farm in the farm bill." The House version of the farm bill increases reference prices used for the two programs and increases the potential for payments to producers with adjusted gross incomes above $900,000 if at least 75% of their income is derived from agriculture.

Project 2025 also calls on Congress to ban farmers from receiving ARC and PLC payments the same year they also receive crop insurance indemnities.

With fewer subsidies to provide, Project 2025 also suggests the Farm Service Agency could become "significantly smaller in size if the ideal farm subsidy reforms were adopted." This is an interesting suggestion. Few things can cause a member of Congress to go off on a USDA secretary in a hearing than any effort to cut FSA offices in their district or states.

-CCC: Project 2025 wants Congress revoke USDA's authority to use the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) fund. That is essentially what the House version of the farm bill would do, and what House appropriators have attempted the past couple of years.

-Crop Insurance: Project 2025 states taxpayers should not pay more than 50% of crop-insurance premiums. Cutting insurance subsidies to 47% would save an estimated $8.1 billion a year and only reduce insured acres roughly 1%.

This also runs counter to the House version of the farm bill, which boosts premium subsidies for countywide policies and supplemental policies while boosting coverage levels as well. Both parties in the Senate have offered similar proposals.

-Conservation Programs: The report calls for eliminating the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), citing that "Farmers should not be paid in such a sweeping way not to farm their land." CRP right now has 24.7 million acres enrolled with an annual budget of about $1.8 billion.

The project also wants to remove the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from holding producers to wetlands compliance. Much like some active court cases keep going after NRCS wetland rules, Project 2025 suggests that authority should be ditched and turned over to states.

The report does not mention other programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

-Checkoffs: USDA should not approve any new requests for checkoffs or marketing orders. A new administration also should work with Congress to eliminate the 22 current checkoff programs or at least hold regular votes from producers to continue the programs. At least some farm and livestock organizations would back these proposals while others would vehemently oppose them. While there are some bills introduced in Congress with bipartisan support to do so, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees avoid these fights.

-Export Promotion Programs: Project 2025 wants to get rid of the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program (MAP and FMD). Farm groups have been demanding Congress double money for these programs, which the House version of the farm bill does.

-Nutrition: One way to split the farm-bill coalition is to take nutrition programs out of the farm bill. Project 2025 calls for moving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food-aid programs out of USDA and into the Department of Health and Human Services which implements other means-tested welfare programs.

The project also again calls for tighter work requirements on SNAP recipients and reevaluate the Biden administration regulations on the Thrifty Food Plan, which boosted SNAP benefits 23%.

-Repeal Dietary Guidelines: Project 2025 cites there is no shortage of private sector dietary advice for the public so the USDA/Health and Human Services effort to define healthy eating should go away. This suggestion comes as nearly 42% of adults in the U.S. are defined as obese, and 20% of children.

So, what about the author? Daren Bakst wrote the agriculture chapter in Project 2025. He is now at the Competitive Enterprise Institute focusing on ending government support for renewable energy or lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, but while he was at the Heritage Foundation Bakst fixated a great deal on cutting USDA programs and spending.

Also see, "House Aggies Advance Farm Bill,"…

Project 2025…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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