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Obama farm subsidy changes dropped from budget

Agriculture.com Staff 04/03/2009 @ 2:39pm

Remember the Obama USDA budget idea that would have ended direct payments to farms with sales above $500,000? That's sales revenue, not taxable income. It doesn't take many acres of corn to generate $500,000 in sales. The idea was quickly denounced by influential Democrats, including House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.

The House of Representatives put the final nail in the direct payment reform coffin Thursday night when it passed its own version of the 2010 federal budget, a nonbinding document meant to guide the work of congressional committees this year. The House Budget drops that idea, as well as Obama's support for capping all commodity program payments at $250,000.

"It's not included in the House Budget Resolution," Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota, told Agriculture Online Friday. "Chairman [John] Spratt [Jr.] heard us loud and clear that we didn't want to reopen the farm bill," she said of the South Carolina congressman who heads the Budget Committee.

Both Herseth-Sandlin and Collin Peterson are members of the mostly rural Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats. Herseth-Sandlin said that Peterson is working with USDA to see if there are administrative ways to tighten up farm program payments.

Herseth-Sandlin also said that she has some concerns about Representative Henry Waxman's proposed climate change bill that was introduced this week.

"We're still analyzing the Waxman proposal," she said, adding that she wants to make certain that rural Americans don't wind up paying more for electricity, which is a possibility if a cap a trade program doesn't reimburse consumers for higher costs that would come when coal-fired power plants have to buy carbon offsets. She also wants to make certain that farmers, ranchers and owners of forests will be able to participate in selling carbon credits, she said.

She emphasized that trying to just oppose climate change legislation completely isn't realistic, either.

"Something's going to move forward and the alternative to doing nothing is having the EPA come in," she said. If the EPA regulates emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it might take a heavy-handed approach and "just subject business and industry to penalties."

Remember the Obama USDA budget idea that would have ended direct payments to farms with sales above $500,000? That's sales revenue, not taxable income. It doesn't take many acres of corn to generate $500,000 in sales. The idea was quickly denounced by influential Democrats, including House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.

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