The Congressional Budget Office releases projections on expected spending for farm programs for the current budget year plus ten years, the ten-year baseline, up to three times a year. CBO’s June 2017 Baseline for Farm Programs was released on June 29. These projections identify expected outlays for farm bill program spending, assuming existing programs continue without changes, and will serve as an indicator of program spending available to Congress as crafting of the 2018 farm bill kicks into higher gear.
Farm bill math creates a few possible scenarios. Depending on negotiations between the budget and agricultural committees the next farm bill could be required to be budget neutral, meaning any increase in spending in one part of the bill would require a decrease in spending elsewhere in the bill, or it could be required to have a net reduction. Given these budget directives, scoring a bill (estimating the additional outlays and potential savings relative to the baseline) is one of the most critical components of farm bill development. From now through the farm bill’s passage, any change in policy will require an estimate of the budgetary impact. A farm bill written in 2017 would be scored against this baseline, and a bill written in 2018 would be scored against a spring 2018 baseline, or depending on progress in negotiations, could be scored against this June baseline.