The FRESH Act would have scrapped both direct payments going to farmers regardless of their production and counter-cyclical payments made when prices fall short of set targets.Instead, my approach would have created a federally-backed insurance program that would cover 85 percent of expected crop revenue or 80 percent of a farmer's five year average adjusted gross revenue. Similar insurance plans already exist, but my reforms would have made them more effective and universally used, while controlling administrative costs. Farmers could also purchase more insurance to cover up to 100 percent of revenue. Additionally, the FRESH Act created optional tax-deferred Risk Management Accounts for every farmer and rancher to put away money in good years to help cover their lean years. The FRESH Act would have been available to all U.S. farmers, not just the select few that farm the current traditional "program" crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton.
The proposal I made in 2008 would have saved the taxpayers $4 billion. This approach received 37 votes in 2008, with several additional senators committed to its support had we been closer to a majority of 51. Â This was an improvement from 30 votes in 2002.
I have already introduced legislation that would abolish an egregious example of a job killing and market distorting Depression-era farm program -- the U.S. sugar program. Our current system of sugar marketing allotments, price supports, federal purchase guarantees, trade quotas and tariffs is a stark example of unnecessary, intrusive and wasteful federal intervention that benefits a few large industry operators at the cost of American jobs. The Free Sugar Act would repeal the U.S. sugar program, creating American jobs, providing consumers with lower-cost sugar, and eliminating excessive federal intervention.
I am proud that the American agriculture sector has advanced well beyond the point where it needs the federal government to make its decisions. In a globally competitive marketplace, American agriculture has remained on top because of efficient use of land, machinery, science and technology. America's farmers and ranchers will grow even more as the world's leader in feeding growing populations, if government programs stay out of their way.
Lugar manages his family's 604-acre corn, soybean and tree farm in Marion County, Indiana. He is a member and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.