Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns unveiled USDA's 2007 farm bill proposals Wednesday. A revenue-based assurance countercyclical program, based on both price and yield, is a central component of the proposals, which also included increased conservation spending, billions of funding and loans for renewable fuels research, and more support for specialty crop producers.
"These proposals we believe are more equitable," Johanns said while unveiling the proposals. "These proposals are market-oriented. They provide support when revenue is low despite high prices."
Johanns defends the proposals' new version of a "safety net" for farmers. "This safety net will actually work better across the commodities to provide a true safety net," he says.
Some highlights of the proposal, as detailed in a USDA press release, include:
- Increase conservation funding by $7.8 billion, simplify and consolidate conservation programs, create a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program and a Regional Water Enhancement Program
- Provide $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy research, development and production, targeted for cellulosic ethanol, which will support $2.1 billion in guaranteed loans for cellulosic projects and includes $500 million for a bio-energy and bio-based product research initiative
- Target nearly $5 billion in funding to support specialty crop producers by increasing nutrition in food assistance programs, including school meals, through the purchase of fruits and vegetables, funding specialty crop research, fighting trade barriers and expanding export markets
- Provide $250 million to increase direct payments for beginning farmers and ranchers, reserve a percentage of conservation funds and provide more loan flexibility for down payment, land purchasing and farm operating loans
- Support socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by reserving a percentage of conservation assistance funds and providing more access to loans for down payments, land purchasing and farm operating
- Strengthen disaster relief by establishing a revenue-based counter-cyclical program, providing gap coverage in crop insurance, linking crop insurance participation to farm program participation, and creating a new emergency landscape restoration program
- Simplify and consolidate rural development programs while providing $1.6 billion in loans to rehabilitate all current Rural Critical Access Hospitals and $500 million in grants and loans for rural communities to decrease the backlog of rural infrastructure projects
- Dedicate nearly $400 million to trade efforts to expand exports, fight trade barriers, and increase involvement in world trade standard-setting bodies
- Simplify, modernize, and rename the Food Stamp Program to improve access for the working poor, better meet the needs of recipients and States, and strengthen program integrity
In total, the proposals would spend about $10 billion less than the 2002 farm bill spent over the past five years, and would provide $5 billion more than the projected spending of an extension of the 2002 farm bill.
The proposals are available at www.usda.gov/farmbill.