NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 13, 2008

Though last year was one of the best ever for farm incomes -- up 44 percent to $87.5 billion -- farmers are about to score the most lavish subsidies in American history, says the Wall Street Journal.  The House and Senate are now ironing out differences between their bills, and it's all but certain that farmers will get about $26 billion over the next five years in subsidies.

For example:

  • Soybean and wheat farmers are slated to receive higher price supports, though bean prices hit a 34-year high last year and wheat prices have soared to a new record.
  • Corn producers will get subsidies of $10.5 billion over five years, which is on top of the deal of a lifetime these farmers were handed when Congress expanded ethanol subsidies.
  • The handouts make growing corn so profitable that last year some 15.3 million acres were converted to new corn production, according to the USDA.
  • There's also a new $5.1 billion emergency "trust fund" for farmers, with almost all the money directed to Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas.

The giveaways are so large that the House version is the first farm bill ever that would raise taxes to pay for it -- by $14 billion, mostly on the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. This only discourages new foreign investment in the United States at a time when the weak dollar is already chasing it away, says the Journal.

Congress has also spurned the Bush Administration's sensible proposal to establish a $200,000 income ceiling in order to receive subsidies.  Instead, full-time farmers will be able to earn up to $1 million per farm ($2 million for a married couple) and still be eligible for a USDA handout.

Source: "Amber Waves of Green," Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2008.

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