“Unable to agree on whether millionaires should be taxed more, Democrats and Republicans are in rare accord on one issue: Growers with million-dollar incomes shouldn’t reap farm subsidies. In an emphatic vote early Friday, 84 senators voted to discontinue certain farm subsidies for people who make more than a million dollars in adjusted gross income. The practical impact of the vote may be marginal — current limits are about $1.2 million at most — but it represents a sea change in how the heavily rural Senate views farm support. In recent years, many votes to limit subsidies have failed in the Senate.” Read the full story from the Associated Press HERE.
This is not the Grassley-Johnson Rural America Preservation Act that I have advocated for, but rather an amendment introduced by Senator Coburn (R-OK). And some analysts see this as a weaker bill that could be easier for big farms to get around. According to FarmPolicy.com Senator Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Ag. Committee, argued against the amendment, suggesting that the Committee was already working on the issue and would prefer to pass it through “regular order”, though it remains unclear whether she was referring to the Grassley-Johnson regulation, or some other measure. Still, the vote signals an important change in legislative thinking on subsidy payments, which disproportionately go to the largest and wealthiest American farms. According the Environmental Working Group, the top 10% of farms averaged subsidy payments of $30,751 annually between 1995 and 2010, while the bottom 80% averaged $587 per year over that same time period, with 62% of American farmers collecting no subsidy payments at all. The House still has yet to vote on the current measure.
In related news, National Public Radio recently aired a segment entitled “Are Farm Subsidies At Risk?” You can listen to this report from Brian Naylor HERE.