Sen. Mike Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture, was one of only five senators Tuesday who voted against a committee farm bill in the Senate. Johanns said it relies on budget gimmicks and outdated policy.
The bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee by a vote of 15-5.
Johanns said ag producers and taxpayers deserve an updated, reform-minded farm bill that promotes free market principles and saves taxpayer dollars.
“Unfortunately, the bill considered by the Ag Committee did not do enough to save money, and took us a step back towards 1980s farm policy," he said.
Johanns said the Senate pass a good bill last fall that moved farm policy away from income support and towards risk management. The House killed the bill.
"While this bill contains some of those reforms, it represents a significant step backward for ag policy and reduces farm bill spending by just 1.5 percent," Johanns said.
He said the bill takes credit for $6.4 billion in savings from spending cuts that are not even in the bill but took effect back in 2011.
He said the bill also includes a budget gimmick that hides $3.1 billion in payments just outside the 10-year budget window to make the bill appear less-costly.
"All told, the bill actually saves just $15 billion over ten years instead of the $24 billion its supporters are claiming," Johanns said.
And, there are too many guaranteed price supports for crop farms, he said.
Last year’s bill would have eliminated target prices, but this bill more than doubles target price payments from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion, moving ag policy away from the goal of a market-based system, Johanns said.
Target prices were also increased.
The target price for rice was increased by more than 25 percent, and peanut prices were six percent from levels that have triggered payments every year for the past decade.
The legislation also failed to achieve available savings by modernizing farm payments or focusing nutrition programs, which could be done without affecting the benefits to current eligible recipients, he said.
Johanns said he will watch for opportunities to offer fixes during the amendment process.