Direct payments appear to be going down for the count and, barring some miracle, will probably not be bouncing back off the congressional canvas this time around.

With congressional leaders and some commodity organizations already backing away from them, the budget proposal announcement by President Obama may have sounded the death knell for the guaranteed annual payments for cotton and grain producers.

Republicans have vowed the president’s budget plans will be “dead on arrival” when they reach Congress. Still, the opportunity to knock out the $4.8 billion the government spends annually on direct payments seems like an increasingly easy decision for Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

The president’s call for requiring farmers to pay more for federal crop insurance faces a less certain future, although the potential savings of $8.3 billion over 10 years for reducing premium subsidies for crop coverage could make an inviting target. 

Besides ending direct payments and reducing crop insurance subsidies, the president is also calling for cuts in conservation programs of $2 billion over 10 years for a total savings of more than $40 billion over the next decade.

The move to eliminate direct payments, which were included in the 1996 Freedom to Farm bill as a means of “weaning farmers off government programs,” comes against a backdrop of farmers receiving unusually high grain prices. Cotton prices, which have fallen from their record highs of last spring, have also been attracting considerable attention.