Significant cuts are coming to farm programs when the next farm bill becomes law, probably in 2012.

“All signs point to less of a safety net. I can’t put a positive spin on what’s happening in Washington,” said Joe Outlaw, professor and Texas AgriLife Extension economist. “Congress can’t take less money and make everyone better off.”

How deep could the cuts go? Depends on whose numbers get the most attention, but proposed cuts by either the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform or the Bipartisan Policy Center indicate severe reductions, Outlaw said.

The former would eliminate $1 billion out of a $6 billion total. The latter would take $3billion, half the current budget.

“The 2002 farm bill had $11 billion in the commodity program,” Outlaw said during the Texas Plant Protection Association annual conference in College Station. “In 2008, we got $6 billion.” Funding for crop insurance doubled and nutrition program funds more than doubled.

Outlaw said 38 programs in the 2008 farm bill do not have baselines to carry them forward. He said one possibility congress might consider is redirecting funds to “those at risk. For sorghum, cotton, rice and wheat, direct payments are going to landowners. The safety net is not going to farmers.”