On the Ryan proposals…                                                    

“The Ryan plan is potentially a much more important set of proposals for agriculture going forward. It is calling for very large reductions in government spending in general, and in direct payments and crop insurance in particular.  

“Any of those cuts shouldn’t occur until after the 2012 farm bill debate has been decided. While Ryan has made proposals on where cuts might happen, he’s also clear that the final choices are at the discretion of the agriculture committees.

“But the (Ryan proposals) are already affecting the farm bill debate. In the last couple of days, members of the agriculture committees have made comments about how they may want to approach the funding issues and when they think it might be best to write a farm bill.”

He’s suggesting $3.3 billion in agriculture program cuts a year…

“It’s $30 billion over 10 years. But, of course, there wouldn’t be any cuts next year because that will be when the farm bill debate occurs. That means (the $30 billion would be stretched over nine years) and would translate to $3.3 billion per year.”

Do you think the agriculture committees will try to essentially pass the current farm bill again?

“It’s certainly where a lot of people are starting from. They want to try and maintain as much of the current set of programs as possible. Whether that will be the choice at the end of the day, we’re a long way from knowing.

“At the same time, Rep. Ryan’s proposal is just that  -- a proposal. It hasn’t even been adopted by the House yet, let alone anything both sides of Capitol Hill have agreed to.

“It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Senate comes up with a very different set of budgetary proposals going forward. North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad is the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and he may have a different point of view when it comes to the appropriate level of cuts to agriculture programs.

“Also, I’ll remind, that this is FY 2012 budget proposal. If the committees stay on their current schedules it is unlikely they’ll write a farm bill that will be enacted by the end of FY 2012. We’re a long way from any final decisions.”

In Ryan’s plan, there are four paragraphs dealing with agriculture programs. There wasn’t anything really specific.

“You’re right – there’s very little explicit discussion about farm programs. There was mention of farm incomes being high currently, at least by some standards, and why cuts would perhaps be less harmful now than in the past.

“But in terms of actual (hard number) proposals, the budget committees typically just set what the monetary targets are. In the end, the agriculture committees will make the final choices even if there is an agreement on the budgetary framework.

“Ryan mentioned two programs: crop insurance and direct payments. There is logic in mentioning those two since they’re the largest spending ag programs by the federal taxpayer. They get the lion’s share of funding. Counter-cyclical payments, marketing loan benefits and the ACRE program are very small by comparison.”

Anything else?

“I’ll reiterate, this is just a proposal. Even if the full House votes for (Ryan’s plan), it’s a long way from being set in stone. There are many steps left before the next farm bill.”