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Direct payment limits could be even higher

Agriculture.com Staff 04/30/2008 @ 10:13am

The limit on direct payments, the only part of the farm bill safety net that's likely to affect farmers in the near future, may be raised from current law, reliable sources in Washington tell Agriculture Online.

That's a tentative agreement among farm bill leaders meeting behind closed doors yesterday, the same day that they met in private with Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner.

The agreement, which still hasn't been voted on by the full conference committee, is a compromise of sorts.

Both current law and the Senate version of a new farm bill limit direct payments to $40,000 for single farmers and $80,000 for married farmers. The House farm bill passed last summer raised the limit to $60,000 for single farmers and $120,000 for married farmers. The agreement said to be reached yesterday puts the limits at $50,000 for single farmers and $100,000 for couples, an increase of $10,000 per person.

"Without a final word from the House and Senate who are negotiating with each other over those and other items, it's not clear just what they may have settled on -- nor what the details are," USDA press secretary Keith Williams told Agriculture Online.

Ferd Hoefner, a lobbyist for the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which supports lower payment limits, was disappointed by the apparent decision to raise direct payment limits.

"Increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to the nation's very largest farms at a time of record prices demonstrates greed at its very worst. Is there no shame?" Hoefner said.

The limit on direct payments, the only part of the farm bill safety net that's likely to affect farmers in the near future, may be raised from current law, reliable sources in Washington tell Agriculture Online.

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