With grain prices soaring, farm income at record highs and the federal budget deficit widening, the subsidies and handouts given to American farmers would seem vulnerable to a serious pruning, the Wall Street Journal reports.
But it appears that farmers, at least so far, have succeeded in stopping the strongest effort in years to shrink the government safety net that doles out billions of dollars to them each year.
"At some point, you have to step back and ask, 'Does this make sense for the American taxpayer?'" says Rep. Ron Kind. The Democrat from Wisconsin sponsored a measure that would have slashed about $10 billion over five years in subsidies -- and saw it get crushed on the House floor.
Grain prices are on a tear this year. On Wednesday, corn prices closed at $5.52 a bushel, up from about $2.20 in 2006, and near the all-time high of $5.70 set earlier this month. U.S. farm income, buoyed by demand for grain from rising middle classes around the globe and the biofuels industry, is projected to reach a record $92.3 billion this year. Still, farmers are expected to collect $13 billion in federal subsidies this year, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department, including payments for commodities, land conservation and emergency assistance.
A little more than a year ago, the stars appeared to be aligned for significant changes to the complex piece of legislation known as the farm bill, which allots billions of dollars to farmers and landowners to help stabilize grain prices, make products more competitive abroad and provide a plentiful food supply.
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