House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has emphatically stated that Direct Payments (DPs) authorized in the farm bill extension will be made.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has not been as certain.
In several recent public statements, Lucas expressed confidence that DPs will be made for the 2013 crops. He said he wanted to provide certainty because there have been questions that — as Congress debates the debt limit, sequestration and the Continuing Resolution over the next 90 days — changes could be made that would reduce or eliminate the $5 billion in Direct Payments authorized in the farm bill extension.
In a House Agriculture Committee office statement sent to DTN, Lucas stated, “While farmers and ranchers have been denied the five years of certainty a new farm bill would provide, folks in Washington need to stop the guessing game about farm policy for the 2013 crop year, especially with respect to direct payments.
“The existing safety net was extended a year to provide the certainty producers need for the 2013 crop year. This is the law of the land. And, I fully expect sign-up for the 2013 crop year — including direct payments — to begin as soon as possible.
“I assure you that the five-year farm bill we will mark up in my committee will honor the commitment Congress made to growers when it extended the 2008 farm bill to cover the 2013 crop year.”
Vilsack noted crop insurance has taken cuts in recent years through contract negotiations and is less likely to be targeted. Direct Payments, however, might not be issued next fall.
“I think a much larger or deeper question is the issue of Direct Payments and how certain are we all that Direct Payments will actually be available,” Vilsack said.
“I think the concern a lot of people have is what Congress basically extended, I suppose they could ‘unextend,’ if there is such a word. And so what we at USDA are supposed to do, we are going to do, and do it in a timely way.
“But it’s not unrealistic to believe, as they are looking for deficit-reduction strategies, Direct Payments, I think are less popular than crop insurance.”
The concerns about DPs were fueled recently when Reps. Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and McClintock (R-Calif.) filed an amendment to partially offset disaster assistance funding for Hurricane Sandy by eliminating Direct Payments. Ultimately, the amendment was not considered by the House.