“If we look at all the programs under USDA control, agriculture has made a significant contribution to deficit reduction — a lot more than they get credit for, and a lot more than a lot of other government agencies. A good portion of that savings will come back in the form of PLC, ARC, and the dairy program. Title XI, which is crop insurance, is getting a $5 billion to $6 billion increase, with new programs for STAX and SCO.

“But substantial savings is coming out of Title 1 nutrition programs. A lot of people would say nothing has ever been more controversial in farm bill debates than dairy programs, but this time around, nutrition programs were the overriding controversy, with Congress finally settling on $8 billion in cuts. That was a lot less than the $40 billion some were pushing for.”

Nutrition programs have been linked to commodity programs since the 1973 farm bill, Anderson notes.

“This formal, tight link existed because there have been a lot more legislators that care about urban issues than rural issues. Today there are only about 50 districts in the U.S. House that are predominantly agricultural. That’s not a lot of votes.

“This link between nutrition programs and farm programs has been instrumental in the past in getting enough votes to get farm programs passed. There was a lot of talk about separating the nutrition and commodity programs, but I think it remains to be seen whether we could get a farm bill passed without nutrition programs — it would be a tough road to go.”

Nutrition programs account for about 80 percent of farm bill spending, Anderson says, with 20 percent for commodity programs. “Nutrition is a huge part of USDA’s budget, and that’s probably not going to change. To think that we’d ever cut them to the point that there would be parity between commodity programs and nutrition programs is, I think, unrealistic. These programs have grown to meet a need and because there has been political support for them. To this point we’ve been able to harvest that political support and translate it into additional support for agriculture, and I think that strategy will continue to be used going forward.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FARM BILL: National Cotton Council will host Mid-South meetings

Much still remains to be done on formulating implementation rules and regs for the new farm legislation, Anderson says. “But, the more you can do to familiarize yourself with the changes, and what you will need to do going forward, will be to your advantage.

“I can honestly say I think Mississippi State University has one of the best teams I know of to go out and do educational outreach on these programs. They have a fantastic agricultural economics group, with a very engaged research component that can do very high level analysis on these programs, and an outstanding Extension Service to disseminate the information. You certainly will be well-served to avail yourself of this expertise.”