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Ag leaders await CBO scores on farm bill proposal

House and Senate farm bill leaders and their staffs are still waiting for final Congressional Budget Office scores on the farm bill proposal that they are trying to send to the super committee in charge of deficit reduction, key congressional aides and lobbyists said today.

A draft document that was sent to the committee under the name of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., surfaced today, but a key aide said that the document was already dated. The document did not contain any details of the proposed changes to the commodity title or any information on the proposed higher target prices for program crops.

Even though the new proposal had not been formalized, the National Cotton Council issued a news release commending the agriculture committees "for their diligent efforts in crafting a farm policy recommendation that is being delivered to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction."

“Although full details are not yet available, the current proposal includes a new crop insurance program for upland cotton,” the Cotton Council said. “The program, known as the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), is based on NCC recommendations.”

“The Agriculture Committees have crafted a responsible set of farm programs that meets the target for deficit reduction and maintains vital safety nets for production agriculture,” said NCC Chairman Charles Parker, a Missouri cotton producer.

“STAX provides an income safety net by making available for purchase an affordable revenue-based crop insurance program consistent with crop insurance delivery and complementary of existing crop insurance programs,” the council said. “Specifically, STAX would address shallow revenue losses on an area-wide basis with producer premiums offset to the maximum extent possible using available cotton program spending authority.”

NCC said it believes the new program will satisfy the Brazil World Trade Organization case findings.

The Stabenow draft document did, however, note that the number of acres in the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program would be reduced to 25 million, that the environmental quality incentives program would be continued with a greater emphasis on wildlife habitat, that there would be some changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program, and that there would be a consolidated land easement program.

The nutrition title would extend food stamps and other programs, but would achieve some budget savings by loosening the tie between the low-energy assistance program known as LIHEAP and food stamps, and tightening eligiblity requirements for college students so that only students going to technical and vocational schools would be eligible.