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Farm Payment Limitation Agreement Called “Deal with the Devil”

October 19, 2007

Lyons, NE – The Midwestern farm advocacy group Center for Rural Affairs is expressing disappointment with a negotiated payment limits provision in the Senate version of the new U.S. Farm Bill. Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook says it fails to close loopholes allowing mega-farms to receive large payments. Hassebrook adds the agreement was brokered by Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, with support from Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Hassebrook also is disappointed that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, approved the agreement. Hassebrook calls it a "deal with the devil," that will hurt family farmers in South Dakota.

"Through the agreement, Senator Conrad won a few more dollars to throw at commodities, but at the price of structuring the farm program in a way that ultimately destroys family farming. What was included in that bill is phony payment limitation reform. It will cause no reduction in payments. The vast majority of the nation's mega-farms are going to keep getting big multi-million dollar checks, and driving their neighbors out of business."

The new agreement provides what Hassebrook calls "a fig leaf for payment limit opponents to hide behind."

"Senators Grassley and Dorgan are offering real payment limitation reform, that really closes the loopholes. The reason this phony reform provision is in the Senate bill is to provide political cover for people who want to vote against true reform."

Hassebrook believes it's wrong to design a farm program that hurts rural America by subsidizing the mega-farms that drive smaller farms out of business.

"This agreement takes away all the money that was originally slated to help beginning farmers. It takes away the lion's share of the money that was set aside for small business development. Now, if there are two things that are critical to the future of rural America and our communities, it's those. This agreement takes money out of both -- and why? So we keep the big payments flowing to mega-farms."

The final draft of the U.S. Farm Bill is expected to be debated by the Senate Agriculture Committee next week.

David Law/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - SD