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Bill Would Cap Mega-Farm Payments

June 4, 2007

Several Midwest senators are sponsoring legislation they say will strengthen Minnesota farms because it limits subsidies to mega-farms. It’s a good deal, according to Chuck Hassebrook with the Center for Rural Affairs.

“It closes the loopholes in the farm program payment limitations, so that we finally stop subsidizing the destruction of family farming.”

The plan puts a hard cap of $40,000 on direct payments to large farms. Hassebrook believes current unlimited grants to large-scale farms have put many small and family-run operations out of business, and that isn't the best use of public money or policy. The proposal could move agriculture to a "level playing field."

“For a long time, we've had payment limitations on farm programs. But, in many cases, they haven't been worth the paper they were written on because they were so loophole written. This bill would close the loopholes and get us back into a position where farm programs do what they're supposed to do, which is strengthen family farms, rather than subsidizing huge mega-farms to drive their neighbors out of business.”

He notes that Minnesota will have a major say in the fate of the bill because of its representation on Congressional Ag Committees. Sponsors of the bill include Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

Hassebrook says prosperous small farms are essential for the survival of rural Minnesota.

“It's a way to cut the cost of farm programs that's good for 99 percent of farmers. With that money you save, you can turn around and invest in creating a future in all of rural America. You can take the savings and invest it in small business development programs, value-added agriculture programs, beginning farmer programs, and things that create a future for our communities.”

For Hassebrook, the bottom line is to direct investment to family farms and rural communities.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN