Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How dumb do I look?...

Wait - don't answer that. It seems the Congressional Budget Office has an opinion regarding how swift farmers are.
The breakthrough apparently came when the Congressional Budget Office assigned a $3 billion savings to a proposal to offer farm program participants an option, beginning in 2010, to choose between traditional farm programs or a state-level revenue assurance program, an insurance program that provides income coverage when either yields or prices fall. Under his proposal, participants in farm programs would be allowed to plant non-program crops. Coupled with savings provided earlier this month by the Senate Finance Committee, Harkin said his "chairman's mark" next week will offer $4 billion in new funding for conservation programs. Of that, $1.28 billion is earmarked for the Conservation Security Program – which Harkin plans to rename the "Conservation Stewardship Program." Even though the House bill has no funding for the program, Harkin noted his bill is fully funded and theirs is not. "They will have to come our way" in the Senate-House conference, he predicted. Harkin projects the CSP, which provides "green payments" for conservation practices on working lands, will grow by 13 million acres through the life of the five-year bill. [More] [my emphasis]
If I understand this correctly (admittedly a big "if"), the CBO number-crunchers calculate that, given the choice, producers like me will opt for a payment scheme that over the long run reduces our payout by $3B. My goodness, how cleverly packaged will that option have to be?

So much for the efficient market, it seems. If our own best interests can be addressed by choosing a revenue policy vs. the usual scheme, we will probably figure out in a hurry that it's because we are getting more money from the government - not less.

Some specifics from Jim Weisemeyer - our man on the scene:
Harkin confirmed the proposal will include a yearly optional "average crop revenue program" (ACR) beginning in 2010 that would, according to sources:

-- be optional for a producer who could choose either the new revenue-trigger counter-cyclical program or the existing program, beginning in 2010 (the option would be on an annual basis);
-- provide a $15 per acre payment to all program crops choosing the revenue option;
-- eliminate current direct payments;
-- eliminate marketing loans, and thus, loans would become recourse loans;
-- base a revenue-payment on a state revenue concept;
-- base payments on the lower of current acreage planted or the average of plantings from 2002-200);
-- allow revenue program participants to no longer be bound by rules that now bar the planting of fruits and vegetables from land eligible for crop subsidies;
-- not require a producer to purchase crop insurance in order to qualify for ACR.
[More via subscription]
My guess is these savings will prove to be ephemeral. (How bad would you have to want to grow asparagus?) But if they are accurate, signup for the optional revenue program could be pretty slow.

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