Issue Summary: The Value of Trade and Export Expansion

For generations farmers throughout the United States have created customer preferences for their commodities – both domestically and abroad.  Case-in-point; the U.S. has garnered 66 percent of world grain sorghum exports and 54 percent of world corn exports.  In addition, 34 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is exported and there continues to be rapid growth in the export of Distiller’s Dried Grains and Solubles (DDGS).  Expansion of existing market access and opening new markets will significantly boost U.S. agricultural sales.  Although engagement in world trade is a long-term proposition, it has worldwide benefits.

Export markets are critically important to U.S. agriculture, absorbing a substantial portion of total production of many important commodities.  When compared to the overall economy, U.S. agriculture is twice as reliant on overseas markets as any other sector.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the fiscal year (fy) 2012 forecast for agricultural exports remain at $137 billion, while imports rise to $105 billion.  The trade balance for 2012 is a surplus of $32 billion, which would be the third highest ever.

Export growth for U.S. agriculture is led by Canada, Mexico and non-Japan Asia yet the potential remains for enhanced expansion of U.S. coarse grain exports.  Conversely, by 2020-2021 China is forecast to account for two-thirds of world soybean imports, with countries such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia representing areas for potential growth.  As American farmers and the agriculture sector look overseas to expand sales and boost income, they will need to build upon past success. 

With the continued growth of the global middle class, U.S. farmers must continue developing market relationships throughout the world in order to meet the changing dietary demands of international consumers.  The United Nations estimates that global food demand will double by 2050, with much of that growth in developing countries.  With 96% of the world’s population residing outside of the United States, it is imperative that American agriculture position itself to seize current and future market opportunities.  Economic growth in other nations ensures maximum export opportunities, as well as enhanced profitability, for U.S. farmers. 

Changes in the economies of importing countries have a direct effect on U.S. agricultural exports.  Economic growth creates increased demand for imports, with the inverse being true when economies slip into recession.  As the standard of living and incomes rise, consumers in import countries are likely to consume more meat, milk and eggs – thereby enhancing production opportunities for U.S. grain farmers and livestock producers.

Free and fair trade also has a direct impact on the U.S. economy, rural communities and the bottom-line of farmers.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that anywhere from 26 to 30 percent of farm cash receipts in any given year comes from exports, with the impact of agricultural trade having a “ripple effect” through the domestic economy.  For example, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has found that for each dollar received from agricultural exports an additional $1.40 is stimulated, supporting activities to process, package, finance, and ship agricultural products.  Furthermore, agricultural exports generate over 1 million U.S. jobs on and off the farm, including business activity in transportation, distribution, food processing and manufacturing.

Agricultural trade is one of the true success stories of American trade and one of the biggest competitive advantages for the U.S., yet its benefits are often overlooked and under-appreciated.  Free and fair trade creates jobs and spurs economic growth – as well as blunting the potential impacts of a domestic recession.

 Copyright © 2011 RDL & Associates, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Minnesota Milk Producers Association Communicates Priorities for Federal Dairy Policy Reform (via MMPA)

Federal Dairy Policy – Where is MMPA at on the issues?

Minnesota Milk leadership continues to communicate our policy positions to elected officials.  Our positions are a result of much research and analysis.  Ultimately, the leadership at MMPA believes these positions are the best for Minnesota milk producers.

Minnesota Milk Producers Association supports the concept of a Dairy Margin Insurance Program with USDA supported premiums. Any such margin program must account for beginning farmers and should not be a barrier to entry for beginning farmers. In addition, funding for this or any other safety net program should be administered so as to stabilize the economic performance of small and medium sized dairies, while remaining available to cover financial risks for large scale producers.   Delivery through private insurance providers should be considered.  Producers should be allowed to buy up their coverage levels.  Producer premium structure should not provide a reverse incentive for producers to purchase higher levels of coverage.  Premiums and catastrophic risks should be calculated on a sliding scale based on pounds of milk produced. 

In addition, Minnesota Milk supports the continuation of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. However, MMPA does not oppose the elimination of MILC if a margin insurance program is enacted that includes the provisions listed above. 

Minnesota Milk Producers Association does not support any of the existing supply management programs currently proposed. 

Minnesota Milk Producers Association supports the development and implementation of strong risk management tools to protect the financial viability of dairy operations, including efforts to educate producers regarding the availability and efficacy of utilizing federal risk management programs.

Minnesota Milk Producers Association supports revisions in the Federal Milk Market Order (FMMO) to promote a pricing system that compensates producers fairly and creates a more dynamic industry by moving away from end-product pricing formulas and make allowances, including the following specific revisions to the FMMO:

  1. Including the state of California in the FMMO

  2. Competitive Pay Pricing System

  3. Improved Price Discovery (i.e. improved storage/inventory reporting)

  4. Two Class pricing

  5. Support Daily Electronic Inventory Reporting if proven benefits outweigh costs

Incumbents Beware: ’92 Redux Ahead (via National Journal)

Republicans and Democrats alike should worry about voters’ near all-time discontent with government, which makes all federally elected incumbents endangered.

Unlike recent wave elections, the 2012 contests are shaping up as an opportunity for voters to cast a pox on both parties — a split verdict similar to the outcome two decades ago, when Congress was almost as unpopular as it is today.

The 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections were clear referenda on the parties in power. In 2006, voters reacting to stagnant wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to a federal government whose response to Hurricane Katrina revealed its ineptitude, voted out the Republican Congress. In 2008, voters punished Republicans again. By 2010, the struggling economy and unpopular health care legislation turned the harsh light of scrutiny on Democrats, who lost control of the House.

Now, with a divided government near the nadir of its popularity, voters are angry and politicians are picking up the cues. President Obama is trying to tap into that populist anger; so are Republicans, fueled by the tea party movement. Voters’ discontent with Washington and their pessimism about the economy, plus the tumultuous landscape following the decennial redistricting process, is reminiscent of 1992, the last time Washington was so unpopular.

That year, Democrats controlled Congress while Republicans held the White House. The economy was becoming a drag (then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville reminded everyone that the election was about “the economy, stupid”). The administration and Congress were at loggerheads. And Capitol Hill was embroiled in a check-bouncing scandal that made everyone look like corrupt good ol’ boys.

Voters viewed all of Washington in a harsh light. In the final ABC/Washington Post survey before the 1992 election, just 17 percent of Americans said they had positive feelings about the federal government, while 81 percent said they felt either dissatisfied or angry with the way the government worked. That was the highest pessimism the poll ever recorded.

And voters made plain that disgust. They kicked out an incumbent Republican president (and gave an independent, Ross Perot, 19 percent of the popular vote) even while they awarded a net nine Democratic seats to the GOP. But that tells only part of the story: In total, 43 House members lost their seats, either in primaries or general elections, while five senators found themselves out of jobs.

“The mood of the electorate in 1992 was terrifically anti-Washington, very anti-incumbent,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who led the National Republican Congressional Committee in 1992. Voters “had the sense that the economy wasn’t in good shape and the people up here couldn’t get anything done. It became, really, an anti-incumbent election, rather than an anti-Democrat or anti-Republican election.

“I think you’re going to see something very similar this cycle, where incumbents need to be on their toes,” Cole said.

For all the attention the “Republican Revolution” class of 1994 received, more new members came to Congress after the 1992 election. More than a quarter of the entire House — 110 members —were freshmen (compared with 85 in 1994).

This cycle’s mood mirrors 1992. Just 9 percent of the electorate approve of Congress, according to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll. And 79 percent told ABC News/Washington Post pollsters they are dissatisfied with the way the country’s political system is working, only 2 percentage points off the 81 percent who said the same thing just before the 1992 elections.

And, as in 1992, redistricting is adding to the tumult as even seemingly safe members have to contend with thousands of new voters who want change. As in 1992, no incumbent next year is truly secure, whether in primary or general elections.

“If I were running a campaign committee, I would be telling my colleagues: ‘Most people in this room should not assume that you’re safe,’” said Martin Frost, a former Texas representative who survived 1992 and later led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “If I were in office, I’d be running like hell no matter how well I’d done in the last couple of elections.”

Redistricting helped Republicans pick up a number of Southern seats in 1992, but they also made gains in traditionally Democratic New York and Massachusetts, thanks to incumbents who were embroiled in the House banking scandal. Democrats picked up seats in states such as Arizona, California, Illinois, and Florida partly because of changed demographics, and partly because of their own creative mapmaking.

Frost believes the anti-incumbent mood may actually be stronger today than it was then. Republicans must contend with an activist base that still believes its party should be more ideological. Democrats have their own discord among liberals, albeit less intense than the GOP’s strife.

Warning lights are already flashing on Capitol Hill.

“They sense the restlessness of their own electorates, who are equally dissatisfied with anybody up in Washington,” said Republican Cole. “These are the kinds of things that put incumbents in jeopardy.”

This article appeared in the Thursday, October 27, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily.

Only 1 in 11 Approve of Congress (via Politico)

The public’s approval rating of Congress just keeps sinking lower and lower.

Just 9 percent of Americans are happy with Congress’s job performance, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Tuesday night — marking a record low approval rating for Congress since the poll began asking that question in 1977, according to CBS News.

Eleven percent of Republicans approve of how Congress is doing, while 10 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of independents give Capitol Hill a thumbs up, according to the poll.

The poll results also took a whack at congressional Republicans, with just 20 percent of Americans saying they believe the GOP has a “clear plan” for job creation. But the public is not much happier with President Barack Obama, with 38 percent saying that the president has a “clear plan” to create jobs, the poll says.

And as the nation’s jobless rate remains stuck at 9.1 percent and congressional bickering persists, the public isn’t too confident that Republicans and Democrats will be able to together on a jobs plan. About 73 percent of Americans said they are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that lawmakers could agree on a bipartisan jobs plan, according to the poll.

The poll surveyed 1,650 adults from Oct. 19 to Oct. 24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Dangerous Dozen: Unsafe House Incumbents (via Roll Call)

For years now, I’ve been running lists of vulnerable open seats and incumbents, so there is no reason to wait until all states have completed redistricting. Here are the most vulnerable incumbents who are currently planning on seeking re-election. One caveat: I have excluded incumbents running against incumbents, whether in primaries or general elections. The most vulnerable Members are at the top of the list.

Larry Kissell (D-N.C.). Kissell finds himself in a redrawn district that moves north into Republican-rich Davidson and Rowan counties and out of Mecklenburg County. The political ramifications of the change are nothing short of dramatic, with what once was a 55 percent President Barack Obama district now becoming a 57 percent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) district. Kissell, not known for his strong fundraising, would need a miracle to hold the seat.

John Barrow (D-Ga.). Barrow’s district goes from a 55 percent Obama district to a 59 percent McCain district. While the Congressman has tried to distance himself from the national Democratic Party, his prospects in a presidential year are somewhere between horrible and abysmal. Retirement would appear to be an option.

Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.). Schilling, an upset winner in 2010, won this district even though McCain drew just 42 percent in 2008. So what did Democratic mapmakers do? They made the district even more Democratic. Under the new lines, McCain drew just 38 percent of the vote. In a presidential year, Schilling faces an almost impossible task.

Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.). Bartlett’s new district reaches down into more Democratic Montgomery County, fundamentally changing the nature of the district. His 59 percent McCain district is now a 42 percent McCain district, and his new Montgomery County voters aren’t likely to find the 85-year-old legislator’s politics to their liking. If he runs for re-election, he will face a very formidable Democratic foe from the new part of his district.

Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.). Missouri lost a district and the GOP Legislature squeezed out Carnahan. Some of his district was given to Rep. William Lacy Clay (D) and the rest to Rep. Todd Akin (R). Carnahan hasn’t announced his plans, but since Akin is running for the Senate, a run in his district would seem more likely than against Clay in a district where African-Americans constitute a large majority in a Democratic primary. The open seat certainly leans Republican, especially with Obama at the top of the ticket (McCain won it with 53 percent in 2008), so if Carnahan does run for re-election, he’ll start off in a very difficult position.

Robert Dold (R-Ill.). The freshman Dold’s district is even less Republican than Schilling’s, but he probably has a slightly better chance of surviving than his GOP colleague. Dold won his current seat even though McCain drew just 38 percent there in 2008. McCain drew only 36 percent in the redrawn district, so Dold will have to overcome a strong Democratic wave at the top of the ticket. Still, this is an upscale district with a considerable Jewish population, and the president won’t be as strong here as he was three years ago. Dold could also benefit from the fact that Democrats haven’t recruited a proven vote-getter against him.

Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.). Johnson’s new district went 44 percent for McCain and 52 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, making it marginal at best. State Sen. Jay Hoffman (D) immediately announced his candidacy, though he now has the option of running in retiring Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello’s slightly more Democratic 12th district. No matter what Hoffman decides, Johnson is likely to have a tough fight.

Charles Bass (R-N.H.). Bass, a veteran lawmaker, regained the seat in 2010 that he had lost in 2008, and he faces a fierce rematch against Ann McLane Kuster (D), whom he narrowly beat during last year’s huge Republican wave. He represents the more Democratic of the state’s two districts — a district that Obama carried with 56 percent last time.

Judy Biggert (R-Ill.). Biggert, 74, was expected to retire rather than face an uphill climb in the president’s state. But the seven-term moderate apparently is so upset at the Legislature’s new map that she is planning on running again. The new 11th district gave McCain only 37 percent of the vote, but George W. Bush drew more than 49 percent when he ran for re-election in 2004. Former Rep. Bill Foster will be the Democratic nominee, and he has assets (personal wealth) and liabilities (a voting record).

Heath Shuler (D-N.C.). Shuler, a moderate Democrat, has always walked something of a fine line in this schizophrenic district. The Democratic vote is centered in Asheville, a city that one GOP consultant calls “the Berkeley of the East,” but most of the district’s general election voters are moderate to conservative. Shuler’s new district loses many Asheville voters, transforming it from a 52 percent McCain district to more than a 58 percent McCain district. He’s received the votes of Republicans before, but he’ll need even more of them now.

Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.). The moderate McIntyre’s problems are almost identical to Shuler’s. He won in 2010 in a district that gave McCain 52 percent of the vote two years earlier, while his new district gave McCain 57 percent. With Obama less popular this time, McIntyre faces a tough climb.

Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). Another election means another problem for Lungren, who somehow wins despite his reluctance to raise money. He will be running in a 46 percent McCain district this time, compared with the 48 percent McCain district he ran in last time, but he also will draw the same opponent, Ami Bera. Bera, a doctor who raises money nationally from Indian-Americans, ran a competitive race in a terrible year for a Democrat, so he hopes the better environment will help him close the 7-point gap he had in 2010.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

stu@rothenbergpoliticalreport.com | @StuPolitics

Enhancing Producer Participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program via a Reallocation of the Producer-Premium Subsidy

The issue of enhanced risk-management tools for farmers and ranchers continues to play a prominent role in agricultural policy debates and one of the central issues is participation of producers in the federal crop insurance program.  Lawmakers have increasingly sought to promote increased farmer participation in Federal crop insurance programs, aiming (in part) to forestall future ad hoc disaster payments.  This fact has made the issue both a political and a policy debate.

The federal crop insurance program is administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and is designed to protect crop producers from unavoidable risks associated with adverse weather, plant diseases, and insect infestations.  Insurance policies are sold and completely serviced through approved private insurance companies that have their losses reinsured by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The basic policy for all eligible producers – and the one which the government pays 100 percent of the premium – is the fully subsidized catastrophic (CAT) coverage.  Under this policy producers are covered for 50 percent of his or her expected yield indemnified at 55 percent of the expected price.  In many cases this basic coverage is not enough and a producer will purchase buy-up coverage which guarantees up to 75, or in some cases 85, percent of expected yield or revenue.  He or she chooses the level of insurance protection which, along with the potential risks involved in the producer’s individual situation, determines the premium.  Producers pay only a portion of the actuarial or risk-based premium plus a small administration fee.  The United States government, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) pays the balance.  Premium subsidy rates specify the percentages of total premium paid by the government.  These percentages vary by coverage level and decline as coverage levels increase.

Crop insurance is a critical tool in a producer’s risk-management toolbox but questions continue to surface as to it’s affordability at the highest levels of coverage.  This leads to the issue of producer participation in the program, as well as the fact that the higher producer premium subsidies provided by the government are at the lower levels of coverage.  For example, the producer premium subsidy 50/100 coverage is currently 67 percent while the subsidy for the higher level of protection of 85/100 is 38 percent (Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000, Sec. 101). This dynamic is otherwise known as the “reverse incentive”. 

In addition to the premium subsidies included in the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-354), the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-224) also increased premium subsidies and addressed a number of underlying issues relating to crop insurance and the utilization of risk-management tools. Although increases in premium subsidy rates and the addition of premium discounts have reduced producer costs and increased participation, they have also increased government expenditure.  As producers have moved to higher coverage levels and to products with higher premiums, subsidies have increased both as a total dollar amount and a proportion of total premium.   

Statement of the Problem:

Despite substantive reforms to the Federal crop insurance program over the years, a “reverse incentive” still remains.  Many producers continue to assert that crop insurance is cost prohibitive.  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the government continues to provide higher producer-premium subsidies for lower levels of coverage, thereby providing a disincentive for producers to protect themselves at higher levels.  The question before policymakers and producers is how to increase participation by making higher levels of coverage more affordable while at the same time holding down subsidy costs to the government. 

When studying this issue they must explore the impact of shifting a percentage of the current premium subsidy at the lower levels of coverage to higher levels of coverage, study the impacts of such a shift on participation decisions by producers, will such a policy change bring more young and beginning producers into the program, and evaluate the impacts of shifting the premium subsidy vis-à-vis its relative impact on government expenditures.

Rationale:

It is generally accepted that higher producer premium subsidies have led to increased participation in the Federal crop insurance program.  Previous research as validated this claim and, although the increased producer premium subsidies and discounts contained in ARPA and subsequent disaster assistance packages have increased producer participation in the program, this has primarily been achieved via additional federal funding.

Many producers and policymakers continue to argue that the program is not working and that certain policies are not as affordable as they should be.  By continuing to provide higher premium subsides at the lower levels of coverage the Federal government is creating a “disincentive” for producers to fully participate in the crop insurance program.  By undertaking a study of a premium subsidy shift on producer participation decisions there can be a better understanding of what percentage of the premium subsidy can be shifted before a producer will either purchase buy-up coverage or simply revert to utilization of CAT coverage.  In addition, it is important to correlate the incidence of crop insurance participation with farm size and structure in order to determine what types of producers have historically purchased crop insurance versus those who would be drawn to the program as a result of a premium structure tilted toward higher levels of coverage.

The core question is that of additional funding versus a reallocation of current premium subsidies within the existing framework.  Over time the first approach may prove to be less sustainable than the second.  The direction of this study will challenge a number of the currently accepted norms regarding crop insurance premiums and will seek to create a new paradigm which is based upon affordability and positive incentives.

In a time of burgeoning budget deficits it is critical that cost effective tools be made available to producers without unduly increasing the exposure of the federal government and the American taxpayer.  As farmers, ranchers and policymakers continue to look for ways to make the federal crop insurance program more affordable and efficient, they must also explore ways to remove the reverse incentive – thereby allowing producers to insure their operations at higher levels of coverage.

Copyright © 2011 RDL & Associates, LLC.  All rights reserved.

ASA Supports Revenue-Based Farm Program (via American Soybean Association)

The American Soybean Association (ASA) this week called on the Congressional Agriculture Committees to consider moving to a revenue-based farm program when they make further recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Budget Reduction by Nov. 1.

“The realities of the current federal budget and debt crises make it imperative to find a viable risk management approach that can replace several existing programs,” said ASA President Alan Kemper in a joint letter also signed by the National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union. “A new revenue-based program should be designed to complement rather than overlap or replace the existing crop insurance program, which is a key part of the farm program safety net.”

The letter was sent following agreement by Republican and Democrat leaders of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to recommend $23 billion in spending reductions in programs currently authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. Eighty-four percent of the agriculture budget is comprised of nutrition programs, including SNAP (food stamps), with most of the balance in commodity and conservation programs.

“We would note that, under a revenue-based program, compensation for losses that exceed a certain threshold would only be made as they are incurred, on all production and only on a portion of the loss,” the letter stated. “This stands in contrast with the current Direct Payment program under which farmers receive payments regardless of whether they produce a crop or incur a loss.”

Under the Budget Control Act, the Joint Committee has until Nov. 23, to propose legislation that would reduce federal deficits over the next 10 years by a minimum of $1.2 trillion. Congress would need to pass the bill, without amendments and by simple majorities in both Houses, by Dec. 23, and President Barack Obama would need to sign it to prevent automatic program cuts from being made in 2013 that would particularly impact agriculture.

The Fundamental Role of Urban and Rural Coalitions in Crafting Agriculture Policy

The role played by modern agriculture in the economy, the shifting demographics of rural America, the decline in rural population, and the advancing age of producers have made the formation of coalitions increasingly critical for agriculture and related stakeholders.  These shifts have changed the way coalitions are developed and maintained, bringing about partnerships that are urban and rural, as well as regionally by commodity.

Since 1973, one of the key reasons farm bills have passed Congress is due to the broad support created by urban and rural coalitions.  Farm state members of Congress have leveraged votes on issues such as minimum wage or consumer protection – viewed to be critical to urban constituencies – in return for support of agriculture legislation.  To make farm bills more palatable to a broader constituency, domestic food programs such as food stamps and food aid have become an integral part of the agriculture budget.  However, the strength of this coalition may be threatened by the desire to reduce federal outlays.  Will members of Congress and stakeholders who advocate for domestic food programs be willing to accept reductions to these outlays that are in proportion to those under consideration for program commodities?

Coalitions are also regional and oriented toward specific commodities.  Southern members of Congress who represent cotton, rice, peanuts and tobacco will often leverage votes for their commodities of interest with Midwestern and Northern members who represent corn, wheat, and soybeans.  Since dairy and sugar come from a broader base (e.g. sugar beets in Minnesota/North Dakota and sugarcane in Louisiana), the regional coalitions that are formed regarding these commodities are wider due to regional diversification.  However, regional and commodity-based coalitions will also see stress during consideration of the 2012 farm bill. 

Although the makeup of Congress is increasingly urban in nature, agriculture continues to have a number of options politically.  Because members in the House of Representatives must seek re-election every two years, those who represent rural districts cannot afford to stray too far from their constituency.  In the United States Senate (a chamber that functions by unanimous consent), every senator represents agriculture and rural interests, regardless of the size of the state or the types of commodities produced.  In addition, the rules and precedents of the United States Senate afford the minority the right to protect and advance commodity provisions and funding for agriculture programs that otherwise might not achieve broad majority support.  Finally, the Electoral College strengthens the hand of agriculture and rural communities.  The Plains states, where farm incomes and land values are most affected by program commodity payment mechanisms, will remain at the core of electoral politics for members of Congress – as well as the candidates for President in 2012.

Copyright © 2011 RDL & Associates, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Agriculture Chairmen Ask Supercommittee Not to Cut More Than $23 Billion from Farm Programs (via The Hill)

By Erik Wasson

The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees will recommend that the deficit supercommittee cut no more than $23 billion from farm programs, but are not providing details Friday.

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are making the recommendation in a joint letter to the deficit supercommittee on Friday. Farm-state members are eager to head off deeper cuts to farm payments and conservation programs in the name of fiscal responsibility.

According to an aide, the leaders are pledging to provide a joint set of specific policy recommendations by Nov. 1.

The supercommittee, a new panel created by the August deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, is charged with finding a minimum of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings by Nov. 23. In reality, the group must come to some agreement in early Novemeber to have the report scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

Farm subsidies have been targeted in President Obama’s 2010, 2011 and 2012 budget requests, and were on the chopping block in the deficit talks led by Vice President Biden this summer. Negotiators contemplated $33 billion in farm program cuts during those talks.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a member of the supercommittee, on Friday acknowledged that while farmers “want to pay their fair share they don’t want to be taken advantage of either.”