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House ag leader calls on Obama, Vilsack to reverse direct payment stance

Agriculture.com Staff 02/26/2009 @ 8:54am

Ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing "great concern about the Obama administration's position on eliminating direct payments to producers."

On Tuesday, during his address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama called on lawmakers to end direct payments to large "agribusinesses." Lucas pointed out this came just days after Vilsack addressed U.S. wheat growers, saying they should "be thinking about developing other sources of income rather than direct payments," according to a statement from Lucas' office.

"I have real concerns about this administration's position on eliminating direct payments to our producers, which would be detrimental to their livelihoods," Lucas says. "Yet, it's clear that both Secretary Vilsack and President Obama don't understand the problems facing our agriculture community. And, they absolutely don't understand how important rural communities are to our economy."

"At a time when the USDA recently reported that U.S. net farm income is down 20% from last year, it is irresponsible to even think of eliminating the one stable form of support for our producers. The economic crisis that now befalls our entire country is not just limited to the East and West coasts, to the bankers and mortgage houses, but it grips the farmers and rural communities that are the backbone of this great country," Lucas wrote in his letter to Vilsack. "Our producers use these direct payments to get credit for their whole operations. Direct payments allow farmers to show bankers and Farm Credit that they have the income to repay their loans. And, direct payments provide producers with the flexibility to respond to market signals when choosing crops.

"I urge you to rethink your position on eliminating direct payments to our farmers and ranchers," he continued. "As you begin your tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, it is critically important that you protect the resources and progress that we have made in the last three farm bills."

Ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing "great concern about the Obama administration's position on eliminating direct payments to producers."

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