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The Debate Begins on the 2012 Farm Bill

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July 14, 2010

LYONS, Neb. - A new Farm Bill must be enacted by 2012 to replace the $289 billion version passed in 2008. Members of the U.S. House and Senate Agricultural Committees have crisscrossed the country over the last few months, holding hearings to get input on the bill.

At one of the hearings, the House Ag committee chairman suggested removing limitations on payments to so-called mega-farms. However, according to Charles Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, if the benefits of farm programs are not targeted to the basic mid-sized farm, the Farm Bill doesn't do anything to keep those farmers on the land.

"We think there either needs to be a limit on payments to the biggest farms, or else we need to set up some sort of a system where we boost the coverage and boost support for farms in the mid-range sizes. Those are the ones trying to make a living from farming, but aren't the big farms."

Hassebrook knows there will be tremendous pressure in Congress to trim spending on the 2012 farm bill. He suggests that average Iowans affected by the legislation make their needs known. More hearings are slated next week in Washington.

"Small communities and smaller and mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, small business people - those aren't constituencies with well-funded lobby operations. So, it's really, really critical that just ordinary, rural folks weigh in on this debate."

Iowa is second only to Texas in the amount of USDA payments returned to the state, with roughly $1.2 billion in farm subsidy payments in 2009.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA