Direct Payment Subsidies Return

Direct payment farm subsidies, one of the more controversial federal farm support programs, have made a return in the recent farm bill extension, much to the consternation of budget hawks.

With technological innovations having mitigated the worst of the farm sector’s traditional instability, direct payment farm subsidies occupy a controversial place in federal farm policy. The direct payment program costs about $10 to $15 billion annually, occupying a significant portion of federal farm spending. In addition, some farm experts have pointed out that these programs do very little to protect small farms and merely serve to enrich large-scale producers.

Throughout last year’s farm bill debates, lawmakers and farm advocacy groups acknowledged the need to reform or eliminate direct payments (particularly given the fact that farm profits have been at all time highs for several years). The farm bill legislation that passed the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee made great strides to eliminate this program.

The recent farm bill extension, however, has resurrected direct payments. With Congress renewing the expired farm bill for nine months, they have also renewed the direct payment program that was a part of the expired farm bill. Leaving direct payments at their current levels could total about $14 billion a year, some fiscal experts say, making a deficit-obsessed Congress’ refusal to consider a new farm bill, one that would do a great deal more to balance the federal budget than an extension of the expired bill, bitterly ironic for many farmers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer