Farm programs face no immediate cuts under the debt ceiling agreement signed by President Obama Tuesday. Program Director for the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, Pat Westhoff, says the fate of those and all federal programs next hangs on the actions of a so-called “Super Committee.”
The Committee will be made up of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans each from the U.S. House and Senate. It must prepare a list of proposed cuts by Thanksgiving, or across-the-board slashing of federal programs will result. Either way, Westhoff says it is unlikely farm programs will go unscathed.
Westhoff says since cuts to things like Social Security, Medicare and Food Stamps are restricted or prohibited, cuts elsewhere must be larger. He has seen an estimate that $11 billion will be trimmed from a mix of direct payments and other farm programs.
Various committees, such as the House and Senate Ag Committees, will have the chance before October 14 to provide input to the Super Committee. This could lend some guidance to what farm programs might be cut.
Westhoff notes, the timing of this process adds uncertainty for farmers trying to plan for next year. In that respect, it will have less effect on those with crops planted in the spring than in the fall. He says the good news is the Committee’s recommendations will be known by Thanksgiving, and whether they are approved will be known by Christmas. That timetable would mean the future for federal farm programs would be known by the first of the year.
The situation will add to the volatility of the atmosphere in Washington D.C. for work on the next Farm Bill to be commencing. Westhoff notes, that process was already going to be made more difficult by its taking place in an election year.