The drive for continuing to support the policy “is we’re really working in a new environment,” said Stallman. “And this proposal is somewhat revolutionary compared to the more evolutionary changes that normally occur in farm policy.”

Stallman also pointed to public perceptions of direct payments in light of high commodity prices.  There is, he said, “changing public sentiment about the role of government in the farm safety net. The public generally is rejecting annual income payments like the direct payments to producers. It’s much easier for policy-makers and the public to understand a ‘revenue risk management’ approach – it’s insurance and they understand the purpose of insurance. It’s there when coverage is needed.”

The AFBF “really believes that will fit better, particularly in the context of a budget reduction requirement that may be in excess of the $23 billion already contemplated by the (agriculture) committees last fall and the starting point this spring about the new farm bill’s design.”

One problem with deep-loss is a lack of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score, which is needed prior to legislation being written. “We’re expecting that, hopefully, within a couple of weeks. We can’t force it.”

The lack of a CBO score has led to reports that the AFBF would abandon the deep-loss policy proposal. Stallman said such reports are “absolutely false. We want that as our primary program we’re promoting but we are pragmatic. If the timeline runs against us and we can’t get a CBO score, we’ll be willing to engage and get the best possible (farm) bill under the circumstances…

“Agriculture is not together, obviously, in where we’re going with the farm bill. Each of the commodity groups has their own proposals and general farm organizations have their own proposals. So, agriculture is less united than we normally are at this stage in a farm bill process. I expect that to change over time as debate unfolds and proposals are put on the table.”

One thing the AFBF board is clear on, said Stallman, is that Congress shouldn’t make any cuts to agriculture research.

The agriculture committees are “using the framework put together last fall with $23 billion in cuts. Fifteen billion dollars of that was from (commodity programs), $4 billion was proposed to come from conservation programs, no cuts were to the crop insurance subsidy component, and $4 billion from nutrition programs as a combination of reducing administrative costs and waste, fraud and abuse…

“They’re still operating under that same framework, as far as I know. I will tell you that as soon as the (House) Budget Committee goes through their process and determine what the budget allocations will be for the ag committee, those numbers will change – maybe significantly.”

How deep might additional cuts go?

“From our standpoint, given the Ryan (and Obama) budgets put forth last year, both contemplate significantly higher to come out of the farm bill than $23 billion.

“I think, given the makeup of the House – who were elected on the basis of cutting the budget – there will be an opportunity for them to weigh in with thoughts about cutting the farm bill safety net even further. It’s hard to predict at this time. We’ll know a whole lot more at the end of April or into May.”

Stallman is unsure how beneficial it would be for the agriculture committees to write a farm bill this spring. “The goal, it appears from the Senate Agriculture Committee, is to say ‘okay, with $23 billion in cuts, here’s the kind of program we can come up with.’ At the end of the day, I don’t know if that strongly influences the budget committee because there are so many other actors in so many other areas that the budget will be tough. The fiscal condition of this country is not in good shape. There will be many higher-level decisions made that will affect the budget outcome that aren’t directly related to whatever policy (comes) from the farming community.