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U. S. Panel Opposes Cuts For Wealthy Farmers

The House Agriculture Committee on Mar. 3 rejected President Barack Obama’s proposals to reduce crop subsidies to higher-income farmers and federal support for crop insurance.

There was little discussion as the committee refused farm cuts requested by the president for the second year in a row. With elections in November, the committee approved a letter saying benefits “should be maintained” at current levels.

“We are united and I think we have overwhelming support in the House not to open up the Farm Bill” enacted in 2008, said Agriculture chairman Collin Peterson, a Democrat.

The 2008 farm law is the first to deny benefits to the wealthiest Americans. It says crop subsidies will go to people with no more than $500,000 a year in adjusted gross income (AGI) from off-farm sources or $750,000 on-farm AGI.

The administration wanted to lower the income cut-off over three years to $250,000 off-farm AGI and $500,000 on-farm AGI. Some 30,000 people would be affected. The White House also proposed a $30,000 cap on the annual direct-payment subsidy, down from the current $40,000, and cuts in federal subsidies to the privately run crop insurance system.

Peterson plans to begin hearings in the spring on a successor to the 2008 farm law. He said any changes should wait until the next farm law, due in 2012.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said proposed cuts were aimed at a small number of farmers “who are doing very well.

“Someone could make, in theory, $600,000-$700,000 and still get a cheque from the government,” he said during an Appropriations Committee hearing a week earlier.

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