Three major farm associations on Wednesday weighed in with specific recommendations on how to replace the current system of direct farm payments should Congress move to cut farm subsidies this year.

The American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union support a “revenue-based risk management program” that would cover losses due to low yields. The associations are urging Congress to adopt the new system while keeping traditional crop insurance.

The deficit supercommittee is actively weighing scaling back farm subsidies and direct payments, which are granted even when a farm no longer produces crops, have been given extra scrutiny. It may include cuts in its November report, leading to action on farm programs well ahead of deliberations on the 5-year Farm Bill slated for next year.

The chairmen and ranking members of the agriculture committees last week urged the supercommitee to cut no more than $23 billion over ten years from all farm programs, including nutrition programs that do not involve farm subsidies.

“We had anticipated working with your Committees to develop new farm legislation prior to the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill next year.

"However, the realities of the current federal budget and debt crises, underscored by the decision by your Committee leadership to recommend a $23 billion reduction in farm bill spending as agriculture’s contribution to deficit reduction under the Budget Control Act, make it imperative to find a viable risk management approach that can replace several existing programs, including Direct Payments, Countercyclical Payments, SURE, and the ACRE program,” the letter states.

It goes on to state that the groups “will support modifications that reduce spending while maintaining as much revenue support as possible to protect against yield and multi-year price declines.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Rep Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) plan to make their own more detailed recommendations to the supercommittee by Nov. 1.

Conservation Programs On Cutting Block?

Meanwhile, on Sept. 28, a national coalition of 56 policy and advocacy organizations is urging Congress to preserve funding for USDA conservation programs, and to take additional steps to enhance soil, water quality and wildlife on agricultural land.

The coalition outlined a set of key principles that lawmakers should observe as they write the Conservation Title of the 2012 farm bill and seek ways to trim the federal deficit.

The 56 coalition members are asking Congress to:

• Put a high priority on funding critical conservation programs at the current baseline level
of $6.5 billion a year.

• Strengthen and enforce provisions that require farmers to implement basic conservation practices in return for farm subsidies and extend them to insurance subsidies.

• Target conservation dollars where the opportunities for conservation and environmental outcomes are greatest.

• Streamline existing programs by reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and ramp up their effectiveness by linking payments to performance and focusing more on whole-farm and whole-ranch conservation systems.

• Ensure that all segments of the farming community – women, minorities and beginning farmers – have access to funding and technical assistance.