Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate, in a rare instance of bipartisanship, voted to block federal farm subsidies to farmers who make more than $1 million in adjusted gross income. While the practicality of the vote is limited, the current income cap is around $1.2 million, the vote signals a major change in the nature of farm support in Congress.
For the past several months, politicians and budget hawks have targeted direct farm subsidies in an effort to balance the federal budget. Direct payments, which many criticize as wasteful, are paid to farmers regardless of crop prices or weather disasters. Many budget hawks believe that these direct payments should be phased out in favor or crop insurance programs and other disaster relief payments.
This vote makes it more likely that the Congressional supercommitee in charge of reducing the deficit by nearly $2 trillion will accept the abolition of direct farm payments as a part of a $23 billion farm budget reduction currently being debated by both the House and Seante.
In addition, the vote marks a further decline of agricultural power in the Senate. In past years, efforts to block farm subsidies to millionaires have failed. Former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, the former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, stated, “I do think sentiment has changed. When they are under this much pressure to cut spending they have to take an honest look at what’s happening, and you can’t justify direct payments under these circumstances.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer