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"President Trump's proposed cuts to agriculture programs are scaring farmers — with the help of the news media, a former president of the Indiana Farm Bureau said yesterday. "I deal with more questions about something that's never going to happen than anything else," said Don Villwock, retired president of the Indiana farm organization and owner of a corn and soybean farm in Edwardsport, Ind., at a Farm Foundation forum in Washington, D.C. Villwock, who is also a former agriculture policy aide to retired Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), warned that the president's proposals to slash crop insurance subsidies, among other cuts, have spooked bankers, who sometimes sell crop protection and whose lending decisions rest on assurances farmers will have positive cash flows. The farm community is "extremely, extremely nervous" about cuts to crop insurance, especially given the Department of Agriculture's prediction last week that farm incomes will fall 6.7 percent this year, Villwock said. That would be the lowest farm income level, not adjusted for inflation, since 2006, the USDA's Economic Research Service said. And even when news reports note at the top that Trump's budget has almost no prospect of becoming law, the mere mention of slashing farm programs sends fear through farm country, Villwock said. The White House plan would cut the federal government's subsidy for crop insurance from 62 percent to 48 percent, while limiting the benefit to farmers with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or less...Overall, USDA would see a reduction of 16 percent, with cuts also envisioned for conservation programs, state and private forestry, and programs to combat forest pests and diseases...The reaction to the budget request contrasts with the praise Trump has received in rural areas for paying attention to farmers' concerns, including becoming the first president in years to accept the American Farm Bureau Federation's invitation to speak at its annual convention in January. Crop insurance is an issue for conservation advocates, as well, as farmers who receive subsidized insurance are required to craft and adhere to conservation plans. Groups such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have called for a tighter relationship between the two, while saying the subsidies cost taxpayers too much, given their lack of transparency and unequal coverage among various crops. In Congress, top lawmakers on the House and Senate Agriculture committees either criticized Trump's proposal or dismissed it as irrelevant as they seek to preserve crop insurance and other programs in the 2018 farm bill."

Posted February 14th, 2018