An attempt by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D., to lower payment limitations for direct farm payments was defeated Thursday. The amendment to the budget reconciliation would have lowered the current $360,000 limit to $250,000 and closed other loopholes that allow larger payments to certain recipients.
The amendment authors estimated that the amendment would save over $1 billion and allow some of the funding to be reallocated to conservation programs.
Many senators voted against the measure on the premise of opening the farm bill prior to the next farm bill. Grassley says the vote wasn't indicative of the amount of support behind the policy of the amendment. "While some senators who support the concept of payment limits didn't want to open the Farm Bill, I just can't sit back and justify letting 10% of farmers get 72% of the farm payments and letting those who are not really actively farming get farm payments. It's not what they were intended to do." Grassley says he'll continue to fight for the small and medium sized farmers by tightening restrictions on farm payments.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., says, "The payment limitation amendment disproportionally penalizes southern commodities, and also fails in overall budget savings, by spreading it thinly back into a one-year delay of commodity cuts, and some assistance to future spending available for only two of the many conservation programs."
In Senate debate Wednesday over this amendment, Chambliss said the financial squeeze of additional payment limits would now affect corn growers due to current low market prices. Chambliss adds that further payment limits could also spread to affect fruit and vegetable producers when corn, rice and cotton producers hit by further payment limits shift their acreage into competition with fruits and vegetables, with increased supply that negatively effects market prices.