Update on Key Legislative Efforts


U.S. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway updated the farm press this past week on key legislative efforts, including the farm bill and tax reform legislation.

Tax reform took another big step forward with the House GOP passing 216 to 212, a Senate budget that will allow the Senate GOP to pass a tax bill without any Democrats. Some 20 House Republicans voted ‘no’ on the budget.

Tax and budget action will play a role in setting the farm bill schedule and framework, according to House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway…

“The Senate’s budget getting passed, and us then moving forward.  Now, there is a question mark that’s been eliminated   and that was the mandatory spending cuts in the House version, those have gone away now, for the time being, so we’ll be able to move forward with the farm bill without having to take into consideration what we might have to or not have to do with respect to that issue.

“Still on track for late fourth quarter, early first quarter of next year to make that happen.  Obviously, November looks like it is going to be consumed by tax reform.”           

Conaway says ending the estate tax is the most important part for agriculture, along with tax simplification and immediate deductibility of expenses.

Conaway, meantime, is reluctant to predict how the Agriculture Committee will handle any one farm bill program, like the popular CRP, until the Congressional Budget Office certifies available spending figures.

But he says one critical issue that will take more than just basic math is crop insurance.  Conaway says the GAO and insurance industries need to ‘get on the same page’ in figuring out insurer profitability…

“Bottom line, if this was so lucrative, instead of having consolidations we’d be having new people coming in saying ‘hey, we want a piece of that market’, because it is more lucrative than it is in other places out there.  Until we can get a better feel for what GAO decides is their rate of return computation and the insurance industry says their rate of return is and compare those and see where those difference are, it’s really just meaningless conversation.”  

The GAO has produced differing assessments of crop insurer profitability, key to perennial farm bill arguments over whether insurance subsidies can be pared. House and Senate farm leaders adamantly oppose cuts to crop insurance, now protected with other farm bill programs by a Senate budget amendment.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.

One comment on “Update on Key Legislative Efforts
  1. Joshua Sewell says:

    Despite Chairman Conaway’s assertion, the math says selling federally subsidized crop insurance is pretty lucrative. From 1992 to 2015 subsidized crop insurance companies made a total of $15.4 billion in underwriting gains while taxpayers suffered -$2.2 billion in losses. This is because companies experienced losses in only three years, while taxpayers suffered losses in 13. I don’t see how anyone can claim this is a “fair” rate of return for taxpayers.

    But instead of relying on elected officials to mandate a “fair” level of taxpayer guaranteed rate of return for these companies, the next farm bill should take steps to improve competition and allow the market to set “fair” compensation. By injecting more market forces into the program, lawmakers can produce a more efficient, cost-effective program while ensuring we are getting the best deal possible for farmers and taxpayers.

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