Farm Bill Saves Taxpayer Dollars and Protects Family Farms (Rep. Dave Reichert)

I am proud to join Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation that we think is a bold but sensible approach to farming policy. Stop and think - when you have this group of people working together, you know you have a unique product that is worth looking at!

The main purpose of the legislation is to save taxpayer dollars while simultaneously protecting our precious family farming industry, increasing environemental stewardship, lowering hunger, increasing healthy diets and improving U.S. trade negotiaions. Yes, this bill does all of that and more. Additionally, this is the sort of innovative approach and new thinking that federal farm policy has been crying out for. It is definitely not business as usual.

The main idea is to make a gradual transition from our current system of market-distorting and trade-distorting farm subsidies to a new system of personal faming accounts that will have the federal dollars put into them - initially - which gather interest and which the farmers themselves can contribute to. These "Risk Management Accounts" and insurance tools managed by farmers will replace the subsidies crafted in response to the Dust Bowl could be used to offset lost sales, purchase revenue and crop insurance, make rural investments, and plan for the future.

To ease the transition to these accounts, this proposal places an increasingly larger share of a farmer's direct payments into his or her account. Farmers could contribute some of their own funds to their account, but a farmer match would not be required. Direct payments would gradually decline and would cease after 2014, under this proposal.  By 2010, farmers would rely exclusively on these accounts and the interest they earn on them, and on their revenue and crop insurance policies to manage the ups and downs of agriculture.  Most farmers have already made the transition to revenue insurance tools. This year, more than 80 percent of America's corn, soybean, wheat and cotton acres and more than 70 percent of America's rice, will be covered by revenue insurance policies subsidized by the taxpayer.

The producers of fruits, vegetables, livestock and other unsubsidized crops would be allowed to create accounts to set aside their own funds for the future. But, these producers would not receive a payment from USDA.  The transition to a more effective, lest costly safety net would allow us to make important new investments in energy, the environment, rural development and in our efforts to combat hunger. When combined with means testing and payments limits, we estimate that our proposal would save approximately $20 billion when compared to the March 2007 baseline.

Of these savings, we propose to invest $6 billion over five years in conservation programs, $6 billion over five years in nutrition programs, $1 billion over five years in renewable energy, and $1 billion over five years in rural development. And yet, even after these investments and after setting our farming industry off in a much healthier and responsible direction, the proposal allows for an additional $4 billion over five years of savings to reduce our staggering deficits.  The reforms we propose today would make our farm and food policies as modern and entrepreneurial as our farmers and at the same time provide additional resources to America's hunger, energy, and environmental needs. These changes will also bring our farm policies into compliance with our existing global treaty obligations and jump start current multilateral trade negotiations. This bill is truly an American solution because it is a win, win, win proposal.