Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Agriculture -> Agribusiness


ItemAgriculture
AgribusinessGrade
AG-1
The Promise: "Will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers, not large corporate agribusiness."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan to Support Rural Communities.
Source: http://change.gov/agenda/rural_agenda/
Status:When adopting the nation's FY2010 budget resolutions in 03/09, both the House and Senate rejected a proposal to cap subsidies to individual farmers at $250,000. Another proposal to phase out subsidies to farmers with gross annual retail sales of $500,000 or more was also rejected.

In his FY2011 budget proposal, President Obama stated: "The Budget proposes to limit farm subsidy payments to wealthy farmers by reducing the cap on direct payments by 25 percent and reducing the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) payment eligibility limits for farm and non-farm income by $250,000 over three years."

The USDA's FY2011 budget reflected in the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 1473) did not specifically address the above proposal.

The President's FY2012 budget proposal did not address any aspect of this promise except to state: "The Administration proposes that farm policy target payments to only those who really need them...by reducing payments to wealthy farmers."

On 03/21/12, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the "Rural America Preservation Act" (S. 2217). This bill would have capped direct payments at $50,000, counter-cyclical payments at $75,000 and marketing loan gains (including forfeitures), loan deficiency payments and commodity certificates at $125,000 annually (for a total of $250,000). The bill would have also closed loopholes that some farmers use to evade statutory limits. This bill did not progress beyond initial committee review and expired with the 112th Congress.

In President Obama's FY2013 budget request, he stated that his proposal "includes $32 billion in savings over 10 years by eliminating direct farm payments, providing disaster assistance, reducing subsidies to crop insurance companies..."

The Farm Bill passed in 2008 covered a 5-year period until the end of CY2012. To replace it, the "Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012" (S. 3240) was introduced by Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow (D-MI) on 05/24/12. This bill proposed to repeal (1) direct payments, (2) counter-cyclical payments, and (3) the average crop revenue election program. However, the bill states in part: "in the case of any producer... that has an average adjusted gross income in excess of $750,000...the total amount of premium subsidy...shall be 15 percentage points less than the premium subsidy provided in accordance with this subsection that would otherwise be available for the applicable policy, plan of insurance, and coverage level selected by the producer." Thus, it is conceivable that payments to multi-millionaire farmers could exceed $250,000.

The above bill passed the Senate on 06/21/12 but lack of House action on it led to its expiration with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012. Instead, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended to 09/30/13 under the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" signed into law by President Obama on 01/02/13. The $250,000 payment limitation was not addressed in that bill.

A new 5-year Farm Bill, dubbed the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. The basic tenet of this promise is not addressed in this bill.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-2
The Promise: "...will increase funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to help farmers afford the costs of compliance with national organic certification standards..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Obama_Cap_and_Trade_0512.pdf
Status:The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) was funded at the $22M level under the 2008 Farm Bill. This was mandatory funding to be spent starting in FY2008 until expended or the end of FY2012, whichever occurred first.

Replacing the 2008 Farm Bill, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. Section 10004(c) states in part that the Secretary of Agriculture shall fund the NOCCSP in the amount of "... $11,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018...", an increase of $37.5M over the previous Farm Bill.

This promise has been fulfilled.
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AG-3
The Promise: "... will reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency's crop insurance rates so that they do not penalize organic farmers."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Obama_Cap_and_Trade_0512.pdf
Status:Under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501-1524), the USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) administers the federal crop insurance on behalf of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC).

In CY2000, the Agricultural Risk Protection Act (ARPA) recognized organic farming as a good farming practice, allowing the inclusion of organic production for coverage under all crop insurance policies in effect at that time.

Citing insufficient experience with losses to organic agriculture because conventional mitigating practices to control insects, weeds, etc. would not be employed and based on data available to the RMA, organic loss ratios exceeded conventional farming losses. The RMA therefore determined that an additional insurance rate load of 5%, applied as a 5% surcharge, was appropriate for organic farming practices.

The Farm Bill of 2008 mandated a review of this surcharge practice. The RMA issued a contract in 02/09 for a thorough study to "review actuarial appropriateness of RMA's organic rates and organic pricing arrangements" and "the Corporation shall eliminate or reduce the premium surcharge that the Corporation charges for coverage for organic crops, as determined in accordance with the results."

The playing field for organic crop producers was finally leveled in 05/13 when the USDA announced the removal of the 5% surcharge for all organic crops starting in the CY2014 crop insurance cycle.

This promise has been fulfilled.
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AG-4
The Promise: "will also provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:Mandated under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, which was vetoed by President Bush but which became law (Public Law 110-234) under a Senate Override on 05/22/08, the Office of Advocacy and Outreach at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened in mid December 2009 with an initial staffing budget of $3M. Its mission is to improve access to USDA programs of small farms and ranches, beginning and/or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The opening of the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach did nothing to deliver on President Obama's campaign promise to provide federal tax incentives to new farmers.

This promise is not to be confused with state-level tax incentives provided to new farmers by some states (i.e. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa) or to landowners who rent portions of their properties to new farmers.

The new 5-year Farm Bill, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. It does not address any new tax incentives for starting farmers.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-5
The Promise: "...will create a rural revitalization program to attract and retain young people to rural America."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:The Rural Revitalization Act of 2009 (S. 323) was introduced by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) on 01/26/09 and was referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Finance. No further action taken on this bill by the 111th Congress and it expired at the end of CY2010.

In support of rural development, rural housing services, rural business/cooperative services and rural utilities services (including broadband expansion), no specific "Rural Revitalization Program" was created during President Obama's first term in office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports the following levels of funding for its rural development programs:

FY2009 to FY2012: Average of $33.0B per year
FY2013: $33.4B
FY2014: $28.5B
FY2015: $29.7B

USDA figures for FY2016 are not yet available. What is clear from the above data is that funding for rural development programs was reduced by several billion dollars per annum during the latter years of President Obama's terms in office.

While several multi-agency initiatives such as the "Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge" were introduced during President Obama's tenure, these were limited in regional scope and served very few participants. No nation-wide "rural revitalization program" was created.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-6
The Promise: "...will strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and fair prices for their goods."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:An anti-monopoly law prevents a company from being the sole supplier of specific goods or services, thereby preventing it from charging any price it desires.

Aside from the USDA's rule published in 12/09 to level the competitive playing field for the poultry industry, there has been no other known initiative to "strengthen" existing anti-monopoly laws such as the Packers and Stockyard Act of 1921 or other producer protections.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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