GOP proposes $40 billion in cuts to US farm programs

House and Senate Republicans today proposed $40 billion in cuts to U.S. agriculture, including a $11.3 billion cut to conservation programs and a $13.9 billion cut to federal nutrition programs.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), the sponsors of the bill, said their proposal is something that might help the deficit reduction "supercommittee" find the cuts needed to achieve its target of cutting $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

"Farmers recognize the need to tackle our nation's crippling $14.7 trillion debt," Stutzman said. "So, our bill saves taxpayers $40 billion."

Specifically, the bill would end direct payments and counter-cyclical payments to farmers, as well as marketing assistance and loan deficiency payments. In the place of those programs, the bill would allow farmers to protect from 75 to 90 percent of their expected crop revenue through a revenue insurance program.

The bill would also repeal the controversial federal price support program for sugar, and replaces dairy price supports with a voluntary "margin protection program."

The sponsors say the bill would cut $14 billion from nutrition programs by closing eligibility loopholes, ending duplicative programs, and improving the efficiency of the programs.

The current farm bill expires in 2012, and Congress is expected to begin work on establishing a new five-year farm program at the end of this year or early next year. The bill offered by Lugar and Stutzman is not a full farm bill proposal, but rather a separate bill meant to help achieve deficit reduction goals this year.

Stutzman's office provided a section-by-section analysis and one-page summary of the bill, titled the Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger (REFRESH) Act.

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