While the official markup notice hasn’t been issued yet – House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says May 15th is a go for the markup of the 2013 Farm Bill.
“We’ll begin with a draft that essentially is the 2012 document. There’ve been some adjustments in some points simply because the various entities like OMB and CBO have rescored some of our expenditures and savings and we’ve had to make adjustments to reflect that. But we’re going to have choice, we’re going to save money, we’re going to do it in a bipartisan way, we’re going to have safety net for all crops in all regions, and we’re going to make sure our fellow citizens who need help something to eat.”
That doesn’t mean the committee won’t make deeper cuts to nutrition programs. Just as they did last summer, Lucas says the committee will continue to focus on areas like categorical eligibility and close loopholes to find savings. He estimates reforms in the nutrition title will save 20-billion dollars. That’s more than the roughly 16.5-billion dollars in the bill drafted by the Ag Committee last year.
In addition to more reform in the nutrition title, Lucas says savings will come from the conservation and commodity titles.
“CRP still will come down. We’ll see what the exact number of acres is. That’ll be a substantial portion of the conservation savings. We’ll have some consolidation and refinement of existing programs over there. In the commodity title, again as in last year’s draft, the Direct Payment program goes away.”
Lucas says the overall bill will save more than last summer’s measure.
“Last year the markup was $35 billion. I would estimate when all the scores are in that the savings probably in the draft that we’ll take up on May 15 will be closer to $38 billion instead of 35 from last year.”
If every other committee in the House would go through and reform every area of their jurisdiction and achieve the level of savings that the Ag Committee is proposing, Lucas says the federal budget would be much closer to being balanced.
Even with all of the savings outlined, Lucas believes the crop insurance title will be targeted for additional savings when the bill reaches the House floor. He doesn’t expect an issue in the Agriculture Committee. He says the membership understands how the program works and why it’s important.
Lucas says the process on May 15th will be open with each member allowed to offer any amendment they want. He says each amendment will be debated and recorded votes taken. With that process Lucas believes there is a good possibility Ag Committee members on both sides of the aisle can reach consensus on the farm bill before it goes to the floor.
Source: NAFB News Service