Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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The Numbers Behind the Farm Bill: A Little-Known Factor for the Fate of Sustainable Ag Programs

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Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series explaining the background budget information that will be used to craft the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. In this post we look in more detail at the smaller, more innovative programs that receive direct farm bill funding but will need to have their funding renewed in the next farm bill. In part four we will give more attention to the bill’s Nutrition Title. In an effort to simplify the complex subject of farm bill funding, we will present these blogs in FAQ format.

This series was inspired by the late June publication by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of a new 10-year budget baseline projection for the farm bill. The CBO baseline provides the backdrop for farm bill spending decisions, since it establishes farm bill program costs assuming no changes are made to existing policies. As policy changes are made by Congress as part of the crafting of the farm bill, each change will be “scored” against the baseline to determine if the policy change increases or decreases farm bill spending, and by how much.

Why Do Some Farm Bill Programs Lack Permanent Funding? Why Does it Matter?

In part one and two of this series, we discussed farm bill nutrition, commodity, crop insurance, and conservation programs, all of which have “permanent” baseline. That is to say, they have a large cost and are assumed by CBO to continue on past the expiration of the current farm bill. As was mentioned, if Congress did nothing but simply extend the current farm bill, the programs, which combined make up nearly 99 percent of farm bill costs, would continue to exist and continue to spend billions of dollars.

However, there is another category of programs, that are very important, though significantly smaller. These programs are scattered throughout the farm bill, including the research, rural development, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous titles of the bill. A few of the programs for fruits and vegetables (Specialty Crop Block Grants; Specialty Crop Research Initiative) and renewable energy (Rural Energy for America Program) gained permanent baseline in the 2014 Farm Bill, so now, like the bigger farm bill programs, they will continue to exist and provide funding on into the distant future even if Congress were to simply extend the current farm bill.

But most of the programs that make up the one percent do not have permanent baseline. They were provided mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill (and in many cases, earlier farm bills as well), but will need to be provided with new funding in the 2018 bill to continue on into the future. These programs include, for example, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501), Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, and Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. (See our blog from March for a full list.)

Continue here.

Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 14, 2017

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