Budget “Supercommittee” Deadline Is Here: Farm Bill Conservation and Energy Programs at Stake

October 14 is the deadline for Congressional committees to send their deficit-reduction recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is charged with reducing the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion or more over the next ten years. Interest groups have been weighing in, too. How will farm bill conservation and energy programs fare?

The calendar for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka budget “Supercommittee”) has accelerated the House and Senate agriculture committees’ calendars for setting priorities for the next farm bill, which is due to be reauthorized by the end of 2012. If the agriculture committees want to preserve and advance their priorities in the next farm bill, they have to make their priorities known to the budget supercommittee now.

October 5, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered their suggestions by introducing their own farm bill, "The Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger Act,' which they estimate will reduce spending on nutrition and agriculture programs by $40 billion over the next ten years. The bill would reduce funding for conservation programs by more than $11 billion (17.6 percent), and it would renew important farm energy programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, but at significantly reduced levels of funding.

Doubtless, the Supercommittee has been receiving and will continue to receive additional suggestions from the agriculture committees and stakeholders as it continues its deliberations in the weeks ahead.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted August 2, 2011, established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Committee members are Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Dave Camp (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Xavier Becerra (D-CA); and Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT), John F. Kerry (D-MA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Patrick Toomey (R-PA), and Rob Portman (R-OH). A majority of seven must approve the plan, which must be submitted to Congress by November 23.

Over the past year, EESI has organized two educational briefings to help inform discussions on farm energy programs Farm Bill Energy Title: Rural Energy for America Program and “Developing Sustainable Biomass Supplies: A Step Toward Energy, Economic and Environmental Security.”

EESI has also joined with various groups in sign on letters to budget, appropriations, and authorizing committees to preserve conservation program funding, to encourage continued support for forestry programs in the farm bill, and to raise up the importance of farm bill energy programs.