Senate OKs Budget Deal

Crop Insurance Cut, Appropriations Battles Begin

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, introduced a bill to reverse cuts to the crop insurance program that were included in the budget deal that passed both the House and Senate this week. (DTN file photo by Nick Scalise)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The Senate on Friday passed the budget act that suspends the nation's debt limit through March 2017 and increases federal spending for domestic and defense programs by more than $80 billion over the next two years. The bill still contains a measure calling for a $3 billion cut to crop insurance companies, but congressional leaders have said they will not implement that provision.

The Senate vote was 64 to 35. The House had earlier passed the measure. President Barack Obama said in a statement Friday that he would sign the bill.

The measure calling for a $3 billion cut to crop insurance companies over 10 years raised an outcry from crop insurance companies, ag groups and farmers earlier this week, prompting leaders in both the House and Senate to pledge that the provision would not be implemented. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week, however, that he believes there could be cuts to crop insurance spending without damaging the program.

Meanwhile, Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, introduced a bill to reverse the cuts to the crop insurance program. Young's bill does not appear to provide an alternative source of the $3 billion in budget savings that were supposed to come from the crop insurance program, to provide part of the increased funding for other programs.

"This is exactly why Iowans and the American people do not trust the process in Washington," Young said in a news release. "The majority of Iowa farmers I speak to feel like they are under attack by their own government. Cutting crop insurance in the current agriculture economy is simply not smart, so my legislation restores those funds and keeps our promise to farmers."

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., met Thursday to talk about how they plan to implement the agreement by House and Senate leaders to avoid the crop insurance cut and about issues that will come up as they try to finish appropriations bills, Politico reported.

With the expectation that the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees will get additional budget authority, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has said it wants the committees to reverse cuts to conservation programs.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA said this week that the budget agreement is "the end-game that we have been hoping for. It puts the appropriations committees back in charge, to sort national priorities and allocate the additional funds to areas of greatest need. Details about the process have not been released, but we believe that each subcommittee will be given an amended allocation of funds to spend and then would have the chance to make adjustments to their committee-passed bill. We do not know if this will result in the passage of individual appropriations bills or an omnibus."

Moran has signaled that if he has more money, he would like to provide more to the Food and Drug Administration for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Appropriators are under pressure to finish their bills by Dec. 11, when the current continuing resolution expires, but it would not be surprising if there is another short-term CR to give Congress more time to finish an omnibus bill before leaving Washington for the holidays.

(AG)

Jerry Hagstrom