Congress attempted four times to make budget cuts to the Farm Bill in 2015, making groups like the National Farmers Union (NFU) grow increasingly concerned that losing ground in the fight to protect federal investment in farming is inevitable.
In December, the NFU Board of Directors passed a resolution opposing changes to the Farm Bill as part of 2016’s Omnibus Appropriations Act.
“There’s always concern that it will happen because it’s happened in the past,” NFU President Roger Johnson told Crop Protection News. “In particular, it happens with respect to funding questions.”
The Appropriations Act signed into law in late 2015 contained Farm Bill amendments through a mechanism known as a CHIMP (Change in Mandatory Program). CHIMPs took aim at Farm Bill provisions and reduced the spending on programs that had previously been authorized. Johnson expects the same process that led to these CHIMPs will begin in late February with the next budget.
“The concerns about reopening it are very real and are out there on a fairly continual basis,” Johnson said.
However, not all potential changes are inherently bad, Johnson said. The potential for capping subsidies could benefit small farmers as large corporate farms would consume less of the money appropriated to crop insurance or other programs. Though quick to point out that not all farm groups would endorse this policy, NFU sees at least the potential to save money in the budget and do some good for small farms nationwide.
However, NFU believes reductions in crop insurance are among the more likely changes to the Farm Bill that could be made through the next round of CHIMPs, and even if the more beneficial approach to these cuts is proposed, it would only be an attempt to salvage something good out of a process NFU hopes to avoid altogether.