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Vilsack Hedges on Payment Limits

USDA is caught in a delicate balancing act when it comes to farm subsidy payment limits that seem to help big versus small- and medium-sized operations.

USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at a recent Senate hearing said; “Senator, I think there need to be realistic and reasonable limits.”

But that was as far as Vilsack would go when Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley–renewing his earlier failed bids to pass payment limits–asked Vilsack if such limits could keep big producers from getting bigger at the expense of smaller ones.

Vilsack; “90 percent of farmers, most of them, are not making the majority of their money from farming. So, the small- and mid-sized producer doesn’t get as much help as a larger producer.”

Who gets more than three-quarters of their income from farming and thereby gets twice the subsidy—$250 thousand–of the smaller one. But the answer isn’t simple according to Vilsack; “We need to understand and figure out how do we do this in a way that recognizes the capital contribution of large producers, but at the same time, understands and appreciates that they may be in a better position to withstand a shock than the small- and mid-sized person who’s just on the edge every single year—it’s tough.”

Vilsack told Grassley the key is to create new revenue streams for the smaller producers and that commodity-based markets alone won’t keep them in business. Not mentioned was payment limit opposition by large Southern operations and their Congressional lawmakers whose votes are needed to pass a farm bill.

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