Monday, March 07, 2011

Farm-belt Republicans reject Vilsack's plan to cut farm subsidies to big recipients right away

In a faceoff with House Republicans from his home Upper Midwest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "stood firm in insisting it's time to lower the income cap for farm program payments," the weekly Washington newsletter Agri-Pulse reports. "With farm prices as strong as they are today, we think it is appropriate to ask the most successful farmers to consider perhaps receiving a bit less than they have been receiving," Vilsack told the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee.

President Obama's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for subsidies to go only to farmers with an adjusted gross income of less than $500,000 after three years. The current limit is $750,000. Also, "The administration maintains the maximum amount in direct payments should be set at $60,000 per farm, down from the current $80,000," writes Bill Straub of the Washington bureau of the Evansville Courier & Press "In all, the plan would save $2.6 billion over 10 years."

Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham said that plan would result in little actual savings. He said it was unrealistic to impose new limits on farm program payments, because that would involve re-opening the 2008 Farm Bill, which is not scheduled for review until next year. Vilsack pushed back: "We're not going to give up on that. ... It's a new day here. We're going to talk about a lot of things we've never talked about before." Vilsack said the administration's plan for cutting direct payments would affect just 2 percent of farm-program participants. Latham told Vilsack, "The reality is that we are not going to reopen the Farm Bill." Agri-Pulse is a subscription-only newsletter but offers a free four-issue trial subscription.

Straub writes, "Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to slash programs affecting everything from poison control to Big Bird in their crusade to corral the $14 trillion national debt, but one item in the federal budget managed to sail through untouched — the farm subsidy program." (Read more)

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