White House supports farm bill but will seek deeper subsidy cuts

The White House on Thursday said formally that it supports passage of the Senate's five-year farm bill but emphasized that President Obama wants more cuts to support payments to farmers. 

The administration said the bill falls short of the deficit reduction Obama has sought from farm programs.

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The 2013 Obama budget called for $32 billion in cuts to farm programs. The Senate farm bill has $23.6 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years, but gets $4.3 billion from cuts to nutrition programs like food stamps.

“The Administration supports Senate passage of S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, and looks forward to working with the Congress to address the important concerns described below prior to final passage,” the official statement of administration policy states.

It says the farm bill makes “meaningful progress” in meeting administration goals, but falls short.

“Consistent with the President's Budget, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve crop insurance and commodity program savings that are not contained in S. 3240, while at the same time strengthening the farm safety net in times of need and supporting the next generation of farmers,” the statement says.

The statement notes that Obama’s latest budget did not cut food stamps.

Independent research has suggested that the new “shallow loss” crop insurance system in the farm bill could end up costing the government much more than projected if crop prices fall dramatically.

The Senate voted 90 to 8 to open final debate on the farm bill on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) defended her bill, noting it cuts direct payments an the new expanded crop insurance program the bill creates is focused on “risk management” rather than making sure each commodity group receives its traditional slice of federal support dollars. She said the cuts to food stamps, which among other things limit the ability of states to qualify home heating recipients for food stamps, are about program integrity, not denying benefits.

Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was more blunt.

“The president’s budget failed 99 to 0 in the Senate. It is not relevant,” he said.