In negotiations for crafting the 2012 farm bill, Gary Adams says, “there is one overriding theme — budget, budget, budget.

 “This farm bill is going to be one where the budget will dictate policy,” the National Cotton Council vice president for economics and policy analysis said at the annual joint meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Cotton Policy Committee.

“Our challenge is going to be to try and maintain the funding we have, and also to extend some of the programs in the 2008 farm bill that don’t have any baseline going forward. There are 38 programs in the 2008 law that are unfunded.

“Efforts to keep any of these programs would require that money be taken from other programs that have funding. So, not only are we confronted with trying to maintain agriculture’s baseline funding, but also with trying to pay for programs that currently don’t have any funding.”

There is “a lot of uncertainty about the outlook for both the 2012 farm bill and the cotton market,” Adams says.

“The 2011 and 2012 crops are still covered by the 2008 farm bill,” he notes, “so we hope that legislation will remain unchanged until we get those crops behind us and get the new farm bill in place for 2013 crops.

“There’s no guarantee, though, that there won’t be changes to the 2008 legislation. A lot of things can have an impact — most of them budget driven. Our efforts will certainly be directed toward trying to keep this legislation in place until the new farm bill takes effect.”

The overriding emphasis in debate on the Fiscal Year 2012 federal budget that was adopted by the House was that it include significant spending reductions, Adams says.

“Relative to what we could expect for spending under a continuation of the current programs, there would be roughly a 20 percent reduction for commodity programs and crop insurance.” Conservation, food/nutrition, and other programs would face sharp cuts also.

“We understand that, given the nation’s fiscal crisis, there will necessarily be cuts in funding, but our challenge is to try to make sure that the cuts are equitable,” Adams says. “If you look at agriculture’s share of the federal budget, some of these cuts are larger than what agriculture’s budget share actually is.”

On the Senate side, he notes, there hasn’t been much action on the budget process. Most of the activity in appropriations to this point has also been on the House side.

“This process caused a lot of concern because some of the committee’s agricultural appropriations amendments were approved by voice vote. They were later stricken when they went to the floor, but some were reintroduced in floor debate. Fortunately, most of the amendments were defeated, but it may be a sign of things to come that they talked about cuts to the cotton program, stricter means tests for determining eligibility for farm programs in general, and other changes.”

Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona has been a long-time opponent of farm programs, Adams says, “and we don’t expect him to give up on that, so the actions in the Appropriations Committee may have set the tone for the kind of challenges we’re going to face as we move forward.”