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New farm bill may limit subsidies based on size

By Public News Service

CLEAR LAKE, IOWA — As Congress nears the finish line on a new farm bill, there’s concern that a provision to help keep family farms strong may be watered-down, or not included at all in the final legislation.

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Both the U.S. Senate and House versions of the bill include a strict limit on certain types of payments to farmers.

The provision, from Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, would close loopholes that allow non-farmers to take advantage of the system.

It would also focus payments that help small and medium-sized farms when commodity prices are low, although Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has taken a softer position, noting there are different sized operations in different parts of the country.

Under the current system, about 75 percent of all subsidies go to the biggest 10 percent of farming companies.

“You can farm as many acres as you want, but I think at a certain point, you need to go talk to the bank and not rely on the taxpayers,” he said. “You know, basically, this stuff is to help farmers stay solvent and pay your bills, and survive to be farming another year.”

Lawmakers have been debating the farm bill for more than two years.