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Proponents of stricter pay cap language
promise continued efforts
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Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday continued his efforts to modify the
existing farm program payment cap language by offering an amendment to
the budget resolution that was being debated in the Senate Budget Committee.
The language would have capped farm payments at $250,000 per farmer, a
proposal supported by President Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
However, the amendment failed by a vote of 10-13.
Senators Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) reversed their previous positions in support of the
farm payment cap language, providing the decisive votes to
defeat the subsidy payment cap amendment. Proponents of the more restrictive
pay cap language noted that all three voted in favor of the Grassley
amendment to a prior budget resolution and it passed 13-9.
In a successful attempt to oppose the
pay cap language, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) offered
an alternative amendment to cut crop insurance funding,
an amendment that passed on a 14-10 vote. The successful Conrad amendment
would reduce spending designated for the budget function for farm support
and would shift part of the savings to the budget function for nutrition
Conrad's proposal assumed crop insurance funding cuts of about
$350 million over the next five years. That amendment was approved,
14-9. How such savings would be ultimately achieved is up to a plan
devised in the Agriculture Committees, not the Budget Committee. The
Budget Committee, though, makes assumptions about where the money comes
Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture
Coalition (NSAC) Policy Director, said, "We are saddened to see the
three Senators reverse their previous position in support
of family farmers, but today's vote is not the end of the line. Budget
assumptions are just that - assumptions. Everyone may well have a second
chance to vote on commodity payment reform later this year."
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter
Orszag said on Wednesday that the Obama Administration would
continue to push for subsidy reform through legislation later this year.
Hoefner said USDA and the White House also have “another
prime opportunity for reform that does not require additional legislation.
The congressional report accompanying last year's farm bill
directed USDA to rewrite the regulations for determining who is eligible
to receive payments and determining what constitutes schemes and devices
to evade payment limit law. The Bush Administration issued interim rules
at the end of December, and the public comment period on that rulemaking
expires April 6.” After that, Hoefner added, “the Obama
administration can produce a final rule that eliminates the biggest
loopholes in current rules that allow landowners to collect hundreds
of thousands and even millions of dollars of year from the taxpayer
despite far lower payment limits in law.”
Voting in favor of the more restrictive
pay cap language during Thursday's Senate Budget Committee
markup were Senators Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Russell
Feingold (D-Wis.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Grassley, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.),
Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.),
and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Voting against the pay cap language amendment
were Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Byrd, Conrad,
John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Murray,
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.),
Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Wyden.
Comments: There will continue
to be attempts to further modify the pay cap language that was modified
in the 2008 Farm Bill, but it will be a hard task to get any such language
Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee Thursday approved its FY
2010 budget resolution, sending it to the floor on a party-line vote
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