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Farm Act Could Boost FL Family Farm Subsidies

June 13, 2011

OCALA, Fla. - Legislation introduced in Congress could level the playing field for farmers in Florida and elsewhere.

The Rural America Preservation Act of 2011, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., could help small and mid-sized farmers by changing the cap on farm commodity program payments in an effort to limit subsidies to larger, corporate farms.

The largest farming operations have the resources, capacity and political connections to maximize subsidy payments, says Taylor Reid, representing the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and that leaves smaller farmers in the dust.

"When we subsidize on the basis of the amount of product produced, we disproportionately subsidize those farms that are already making a lot of money."

Republicans in Congress generally favor continuing the direct subsidies, whether commodity crop prices are high or low. They say farms of all sizes are being squeezed by higher prices for fuel, land, equipment and fertilizers. However, Reid says the subsidies no longer serve their original purpose and should be given based on economic need.

The federal government is cutting deep into agriculture programs and hurting the local family farms, Reid says, while tax dollars are being spent on subsidies for big-profit farms which don't trickle down to Florida towns and cities.

"Very little of that money comes back into the local economy. When you have a family farmer, they're buying food at the local grocery, they're contributing on Sunday at their local church, they're buying coffee at the local coffee shop."

From 1995 to 2009, Reid says, 10 percent of Florida farms collected more than 70 percent of the commodity program payments.

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL