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Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees said they will now turn their attention to the next farm bill, after a congressional supercommittee failed to come up with a plan to cut the federal deficit.
Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the chairwoman of the Senate agriculture committee, and her House counterpart, Republican Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, said panel members were able to work together in a bipartisan way to recommend $23 billion in cuts to farm programs over 10 years.
The committees will use the “same bipartisan spirit” as they “continue the process of reauthorizing the farm bill in coming months,” Stabenow and Lucas said yesterday in an e- mailed statements.
The plan, which was never publicly released, would have done away with about $5 billion in annual payments to farmers made regardless of crop prices. The subsidy would have been replaced partially with insurance against “shallow losses” created by drops in revenue, according to lawmakers including Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Some lawmakers said the budget-cutting proposal may form the foundation of the next farm bill, due in 2012. The legislation, usually passed every five years, governs agricultural policies, including subsidies and conservation and nutrition programs.
The Environmental Defense Fund said the committees’ plan included “significant savings” from conservation programs. Still, the Washington-based group praised the way Democrats and Republicans were able to work together to minimize some of the possible effects of proposed cuts.
“The work the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees did over the past few months demonstrates a continuing strong commitment to conservation in the face of significant budget pressures,” Sara Hopper, the group’s agricultural policy director, wrote in e-mail.
Pat Roberts of Kansas, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, criticized Lucas and Stabenow for crafting their proposal largely in secret, saying that’s “not the way to write the farm bill.”
“I had substantial concerns about what little I knew of the direction of the commodity title and the inequitable distribution of spending reductions between commodities, conservation, nutrition and specialty-crop programs.”
The next farm bill “will now be written in regular order, as it should be,” he said.
--With reporting by Derek Wallbank in Washington. Editors: Daniel Enoch, Larry Liebert.
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