First, and foremost, MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone out there. I hope everyone has a great Christmas season and is prepared for a great new year.
I ran into a friend in the grocery store yesterday, and he asked about the farm bill. Of course, he knew as well as I that what we have is chaos…on many levels. The US House leadership seems in disarray over issues like payroll tax relief extensions and political grandstanding (not that grandstanding is terribly new). Agriculture had a relatively bipartisan proposal on the table, but the “super-flunkee” committee scuttled that process. The question is, what chance do we have to revisit the agreed parameters in the new year?
Money would be on the current proposal being a good starting point for the next round of debate, but the dynamics will certainly be different. First, we will be in the heat of presidential politics. The left wing of the spectrum will certainly be pushing Congress and the president to keep funding for pet projects…in this case food assistance and conservation. Conservative elements will be keenly interested in pursuing deficit reduction and scoring political points by curbing entitlement spending. One could envision a world where more than $23 billion were pulled from agriculture, with a vast majority of that coming from commodity, crop insurance, and other farm spending, and little additional cuts coming from food and nutrition. That, though, is just one possible scenario.
It should be an interesting upcoming year, though. It seems that the move toward more risk management policy in place of traditional income transfers has not lost momentum (although there is less discussion given the failure of the “super committee”). As I have said before, that seems to be a good overall move, and certainly is a movement away from the “entitlement” culture to one of shared risk. But whether that that approach can survive a prolonged debate where the traditional vested interests have an opportunity to gather steam remains to be seen.
At any rate, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!! And a Happy New Year!!