Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kentucky Senate nominee moderates his pre-primary opposition to agricultural subsidies

Rand Paul, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Kentucky, said before he won the May primary that federal subsidies to agriculture are "not a good idea." Now he has moderated that stance, embracing the largely Democratic idea of not paying subsidies farmers whose incomes exceed a certain amount.

WHAS Radio host Mandy Connell asked Paul, right, this morning about farm subsidies. He said his position was "much more moderate" than it had been portrayed. He said he would start by eliminating payments to dead farmers. That's a shorthand version of the facts; estates of dead farmers are eligible to receive subsidies if the estates continue to operate farms. The General Accounting Office said in a recent report, "USDA has made farm payments to estates more than two years after recipients died, without determining, as its regulations require, whether the estates were kept open to receive these payments."

UPDATE, July 2: Ronnie Ellis, statehouse and political reporter for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. papers in Kentucky, checked Paul's figures on the number of payments to dead farmers. The Department of Agriculture said they were far from correct.

Paul then suggested denying subsidies to farmers whose incomes are above $2 million a year. He said 2,700 farmers fit that description. The Obama adminstration tried to enact a lower income cap in the latest Farm Bill and in recent legislation, but rural Democrats blocked that.

More specifically, Paul called for repealing the Conservation Reserve and similar programs that pay farmers not to plant on land that is marginal because it is prone to soil erosion. He did not describe it that way, saying instead that $1 billion of $13 billion in farm subsidies is "spent paying people not to grow. . . . I don’t think that's a good idea, to pay people not to farm. . . . Let's grow more and export it."

A spokeswoman for Paul's Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that “Paul’s willingness to yank these programs away from our farmers is another example of why Kentucky can’t afford Rand Paul.” (Read more)

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