On September 29, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new report, “Previewing the Next Farm Bill: Unfunded and Early-Expiring Provisions,” which details the 37 programs that will no longer have baseline funding in the next farm bill cycle. Together, these programs account for $9-10 billion dollars (depending on estimation approach), or 4% of the $283 billion five-year total cost of the 2008 farm bill. Or to use perhaps a more relevant vantage point, the $9-10 billion represents nearly a third of the cost of the 2008 Farm Bill that was not commodity programs, crop insurance, or food stamps.
This is not unfamiliar news to NSAC members, as we have been talking about it and preparing for over a year now. However, having a government agency say it and summarize it is helping to expand knowledge about the impending crisis among the broader farm bill community.
Unless offsets are found, programs that will be lost through the lack of funding include the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Supplemental Agriculture Disaster Program (SURE),Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). WRP and SURE account for nearly two-thirds of the missing $9-10 billion.
If these programs are to continue, it is likely that offsets will have to be taken from other areas of the farm bill, setting the stage for some potentially uncomfortable choices in a tight race for funding.
In addition to WRP, BCAP and REAP, other programs with no baseline budget for the next farm bill that were NSAC priorities include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Farmers Market Promotion Program, National Organic Certification Cost Share, Rural Microenterpreneur Assistance Program, and Value-Added Producer Grants.
The programs without baseline in the 2012 bill are spread across 12 of the 15 titles, with agricultural disaster assistance at the top of the list for the largest cost to extend baseline ($4.8 billion or $3.6 billion, depending on the estimation approach), followed by conservation ($2.1 billion or $3.2 billion), energy ($1.1 billion or $1.9 billion), and research ($383 million).
Typically, a program that receives mandatory funding in the last year of its authorization will be assumed to continue at that level of funding in the budget baseline; however, baseline funding for the next five-year cycle is not established for programs that did not receive new mandatory funding in the last year of the bill, programs with baseline funding below $50 million in the last year of the bill, or programs that were specifically not given baseline funding by the budget committees in order to reduce the bill’s 10-year cost.
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