Motivated by expected deep cuts to agriculture programs by Congress’ ‘super committee,’ in recent weeks, farm/commodity groups and congressional committees have produced a steady stream of agriculture program proposals. The proposals cover a gamut of policy ideas.

Comparing and contrasting the proposals was difficult until a study was authored by Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University economist. On Oct. 20, shortly after the American Farmland Trust-requested study was released, Zulauf spoke with Farm Press about the programs’ differences and commonalities, crop insurance and “shallow loss.” Among his comments:

On how Zulauf was approached to do the study and how long it took…

“The study was due to a direct request from American Farmland Trust. If that hadn’t happened, I likely have done something similar in the course of my work for Ohio State (University).

“In terms of preparing the report, I read as much of the publically-available information from the various proposals’ authors as I could find or others sent me. I couldn’t find any public information for a couple of proposals.

“Also, on Oct. 6, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report that provided descriptions of the proposals. That came out as I was writing my report. The CRS report contained some information I hadn’t seen before.”

On Zulauf’s comparison of the different reports…

“After thinking about it – and there’s quite a difference between the proposals in presentation and parameters – I had to decide what perspectives to put into the paper. The final conclusion was there had to be different perspectives or comparisons.

“The first involves the specifics of each proposal, at least as much as you can get on a single page. There’s real value in allowing people to see the proposals in a compact form. If you stretch them across pages and pages, the comparisons can be hard to follow.”

See Table 1A here.

“It turned out the proposals can be grouped into two types. That lent to compiling two tables of the specifics. The first are proposals with very specific parameters on how they’d design a farm program. Many of these are revenue-type programs but the National Farmers Union farmer-owned reserve proposal also fits here.

“Then there are the proposals that take a more general approach. For example, the proposal by American Farm Bureau, which discusses more broadly what they want the policy to do. The (Obama) administration’s proposal also leans that way.”

See Table 1B here.

“After putting those two tables together, I thought it would be useful to produce a table that looks at the current provisions or specifics of crop revenue insurance, ACRE and SURE. I didn’t want to assume everyone knows what they are – and there’s an element in the debate that refers back to existing policy. To be fully informed, you need to understand how current policy works.

See Table 2 here.

“Further, I thought ‘this is a lot of information. There’s a need to look at the big picture instead of the specifics of the proposals.’ That led to the (following) table. Certainly, more elements could be added to this table but I thought these would be of interest to readers.

See Farm Safety Net Proposals table here.

“Basically, I tried to do three comparisons that are linked: One is the specifics of the various proposals; the second is the specific parameters of current programs; the third is broader policy concepts like ‘is it a revenue program or a shallow loss program? Is it coordinated with crop insurance?’”