Lawmakers increase push to end to direct payments

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2013 - Three lawmakers pressed Congress Wednesday to eliminate direct payments to farmers even if a long-term farm bill is not approved this year.

“By any vehicle possible,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who held a press conference with Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to rail against the payments.

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Flake said the end of direct payments should be part of a continuing resolution or any type of short-term farm bill extension, if Congress is unable to agree to comprehensive long-term agricultural policy. The last extension of the farm bill expired Sept. 30.

The lawmakers noted that both the Senate-passed five-year farm bill (S. 954) and the House-passed farm bill (H.R. 2642) include an end to the payments.

“We have bipartisan support and there's no reason for delay,” Flake said. “The payments have been going to the wrong recipients.”

Blumenauer said the government has spent nearly $100 billion on the payments since the program started in 1996. “[Ending the payments] is as close to a no-brainer as there is,” Blumenauer said.

Flake, who also has pressed against premium crop insurance subsidies, said direct payments are economically unfeasible and that many farmers in his district have questioned the program.

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has said, “The program is indefensible in current budget climate. It makes no sense to pay farmers when haven't suffered a loss.”

Meanwhile, agricultural stakeholders continue to watch for the House to name its conferees.

At the press conference, Kind said there has been no list of conferees set, and suggested that farm bill action may not resume until after the resolution of the government shutdown. “We need to get back to regular order,” Kind said.

The Senate recently reappointed its conferees, which consists of seven Democratic committee members and five Republican members.

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