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Farm Group Says House Ag Committee Strikes Blow Against Family Farms

July 25, 2007

A Midwest farm group says the House Ag Committee's farm bill proposal would give big subsidy increases to mega-farms at the expense of rural communities. Jon Bailey with the Center for Rural Affairs says the legislation raises the limits on direct payments made, regardless of crop prices, from $80,000 to $120,000. He says the increase in subsidies for large farms will drive smaller operations out of business and lead to a further erosion of rural communities. Bailey says when his group analyzed federal farm spending, there was a big bias toward big farms, nationwide and here in South Dakota.

"In South Dakota we found that, for every dollar given in rural development, a dollar-sixty went to the top twenty farm program recipients. And again, we're comparing twenty individuals with twenty counties. So, in South Dakota that's about 80,000 people. We're comparing twenty people to funding for communities that house about 80,000 people."

Bailey is the author of a new report on subsidies, and he believes there's a better way to promote strong rural communities. He says Congress should impose strong payment limitations and close loopholes that favor mega farms, then use those funds to investment in rural communities.

"These communities need to have a strong business community. They need to have strong infrastructure. They need to have housing. And often times, as we say in the report, when you start to lose population you start on this downward spiral and the eventual result is you don't have the tax base to do these investments that are needed to maintain and attract people in your community."

The report, An Analysis of USDA Farm Program Payments and Rural Development Funding in Low Population Growth Rural Counties, examined 260 rural counties with the greatest depopulation or lowest population growth in thirteen states, including South Dakota.

For a full copy of the report go to www.cfra.org/oversubsidized.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD