Farm Subsidies Debate Reignited

A debate over direct payment farm subsidies, thought settled by many Americans, has reignited with the recent farm bill extension.

For more than a year, Congress has debated the provisions of the 2012 Farm Bill. In the wake of 2011’s debt ceiling debate, the US Department of Agriculture and the major congressional agriculture committees sought to include major spending cuts in the farm bill as an effort to reduce federal deficits. One of the provisions of the 2012 Farm Bill that most politicians could agree on was the elimination of direct payment farm subsidies.

With gridlock in Congress, however, delaying the passage of a new farm bill, and with Congress forced to temporarily extend the expired farm bill, direct payments are back, extended for another nine months until Congress can come together to pass a new farm bill.

Given the recent trends in American agriculture, calls for the end of direct payments subsidies have gotten louder and louder. Since the 1930s, when direct payments started, the number of small farms in the United States has continuously shrunk. In addition, for the past several years, farmers have seen record profits. Given the inability of direct payments to protect small farms, their $10 – $15 billion a year price tag seems steep to many voters.

How long these subsidies continue is up to Congress. If gridlock continues and Congress remains unable to pass a new farm bill, they could limp along as the federal government continually renews the expired farm bill.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer