Federal budget targets many key INFB priorities

Important risk management tools and conservation and rural development programs are in jeopardy after President Trump released a FY 2018 budget that proposed dramatic cuts to most farm programs.

Future communications will lay out exactly how the budget and farm bill work together, but the next couple of months are crucial as the House Ag Committee hopes to present its draft of the farm bill in late August. This means farmer contacts with Congress this summer and fall are more important than ever.

The budget targets many Farm Bureau priorities, including crop insurance. Calling for a cost reduction of $16.2 billion over 10 years, the proposal caps crop insurance premium subsidies at $40,000.  In addition, adjusted gross income (AGI) levels are altered to cap at $500,000.  The proposed cap would apply to both crop insurance and commodity programs, whereas the current $900,000 AGI cap only applies to commodity programs. In addition, the Harvest Price Option for crop insurance plans is eliminated to save $11.9 billion over 10 years.

The budget also proposes a $5.7 billion cut to conservation programs over the next 10 years, primarily in technical assistance to farmers.

Following speculation regarding USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s announcement about the reorganization of USDA, funding for rural development programs would be significantly cut and many programs eliminated.  The plan appears to call for a 19 percent reduction in staff for rural development and a 26 percent cut to program funding.

The proposal also would threaten the viability of plant and animal security programs at the nation’s borders, undermine grain quality and market information systems and stunt rural America’s economic growth by eliminating important utility programs and other rural development programs.

The Harvest Price Option for crop insurance and conservation funding are considered two of INFB’s highest priorities for the upcoming farm bill. Cuts to programs including the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant also are of great concern to INFB as they are programs considered to be INFB funding priorities for the next farm bill.

“Cuts to USDA and many vital ag programs are especially concerning considering the current state of farm income in Indiana,” said INFB President Randy Kron. “INFB will work with the House and Senate to protect programs that are critical for the future success of agriculture and rural Indiana.”

Indiana Farm Bureau is working with AFBF to coordinate efforts throughout the budget process. Bob White, INFB national government relations director, participated in AFBF’s farm bill working group in preparation for the House Ag Committee’s farm bill draft.

Over the next several months INFB will be encouraging members to engage in conversation with Indiana’s congressional delegation. 

“It’s Congress that writes and passes a budget. INFB is committed to working appropriate channels to ensure that we maintain programs that help farmers manage risks and help rural communities survive.  Member advocacy engagement will be critical to reaching those goals,” said Kron.