Friday, March 13, 2009

Vilsack defends Obama budget, calls for 'improved targeting' of direct farm payments

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has again signaled the Obama administration's willingness to change its proposal to bar direct farm-subsidy payments to farms with more than $500,000 in annual sales. In an op-ed article in The Des Moines Register about Obama's proposed budget and its impact on agriculture and rural areas, Vilsack describes the proposal as "improved targeting of direct payments to those who really need support."

Vilsack writes, "Direct payments are provided to large operations and done so regardless of crop prices, losses, or even whether the land is still in production. I acknowledge that capping farm program payments and tightening eligibility for direct payments may not be popular with some of Iowa's farmers or producers from around the country, but we must remember that direct payments were never intended to be around this long. They were temporary payments in the 1996 farm bill, and although they were scheduled to expire, they were included in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, at a cost to taxpayers of about $5.2 billion per year." (Read more)

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