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Ag Group Says New Farm Bill Should Help all of Rural America

January 12, 2007

The Midwest-based farm group Center for Rural Affairs is calling on the new Congress to do a better job of focusing farm programs on the farmers who need them most. Program Advisor Daniel Owens says federal farm dollars are scarce, and strict enforcement of payment limitations is needed to end subsidies that promote consolidation and concentration of agriculture.

"We realize that there's tight budgets out there and that we need programs that we can justify, that we can go to the taxpayers and say 'this is really worth our money'. And quite frankly, unlimited subsidies to corporate farms is not something that you can say is achieving the goals of the farm bill."

Owens believes the federal government has a moral obligation to change the way it subsidizes farmers.

"We want to see our rural communities survive and thrive. We need proven strategies that help people stay in rural America. We don't want strategies that drive people off the farm, and we think that moral perspective is one that's been missing to some extent."

According to Owens, changes are needed because the current system of payments has created loopholes that allow unlimited subsidy checks. He says it's driving up land prices as mega farms buy out their neighbors.

"It also gobbles up a lot of dollars. There's a lot of good programs out there, things we can do with conservation, and rural development, like micro-enterprise; strategies that have been proven to work, to alleviate poverty and help the environment. When you have so many dollars going into unlimited corporate subsidy checks, you just don't have the money to do those proven strategies."

Owens says the next farm bill should help every South Dakota farm family and all of rural America by using the tax dollars in the most efficient way; he adds it should be a moral and political obligation, not a goal.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD