We're Still Giving Wads of Cash to Agribusiness

The Senate passed on Thursday a farm bill that took two years to complete. Most of the discussion around the bill—and the reason for the delay—concerns the level of cuts to food stamps, which wound up at $8.7 billion over 10 years (about 1 percent of the overall program). But while the parties argued about how much food to take away from poor people, it’s just as revealing to look at the area where they both agreed. Democrats and Republicans alike have pointed to the repeal of $4.5 billion in annual direct cash payments, a long disfavored policy where farmers received a fixed amount of money for every acre they owned, regardless of whether it was planted. The Senate will “end outdated and unnecessary subsidies,” said lead Democratic negotiator Debbie Stabenow on Monday. Her Republican counterpart, House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas, once supported direct payments, but highlighted their repeal upon House passage of the bill. “Don’t underestimate the magnitude of the reforms,” he said last week.

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