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Farm bill pay limit delay ends

DANIEL LOOKER 01/27/2014 @ 12:47pm Business Editor

One of the issues holding up the farm bill, a disagreement over payment limit reform, may have been resolved. Reports are circulating in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and today, that a final draft of the bill could be released later today.

Not everyone is pleased with the outcome. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition released a statement late Sunday expressing the group's disappointment:

"We have heard reports that the lead farm bill negotiators of the conference committee have rejected the bipartisan farm subsidy reform included in both the House- and Senate-passed farm bills," the coalition said in a statement. "Instead of a $50,000 annual limit on the primary payments (or double that for married couples), the lead negotiators have decided instead on a $125,000 limit (again, doubled for married couples). In other words, they have increased the House and Senate-passed bipartisan agreement by 150%, an egregious increase showing profound disrespect for the democratic process and the normal rules of Congress that make identical provisions passed by both bodies not open to change in a House-Senate conference.

"Even that appalling give-away was not enough, however, according to reports from the behind-closed-doors final negotiation on Sunday. In addition, the lead negotiators have evidently also decided not to adopt the House- and Senate-passed provisions to close the loopholes that currently allow large, wealthy farms to collect many multiples of the nominal payment limit. Instead, they leave the loopholes entirely in place, allowing for unlimited payments, and punt any decisions about the ultimate fate of the loopholes to the Obama Administration. Granted the same authority by the 2008 Farm Bill, the Obama administration decided to keep the current loopholes intact, providing little prospect that anything would prove different the second time around the same block.

"If the rumors circulating today [Sunday] prove true, the result will be an uncapped, unlimited entitlement that will continue to be riddled with fraud and abuse and continue to waste taxpayers' money, transferring government subsidies from less well off taxpayers to megafarms with huge assets and high incomes, while putting rank-and-file family farmers at an artificial government-sanctioned competitive disadvantage and shutting beginning farmers out of the land market.

"Assuming the reports are true, we urge the rest of the conferees to reject the deal struck by the lead farm bill negotiators. We also urge all members of the House and Senate to speak out and reject this perversion of democracy. It is time to let the handful of members who feel compelled to serve the interests of wealthy megafarm investors and landowners know that this is not their personal enclave and that when the House and Senate both have already voted for real reform, the votes of the bipartisan majorities actually stand for something that cannot be so casually and completely disrespected."

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