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February 25, 2009

Obama to End Big Ag Subsidies?

Well, no. Not really. My guess is that he was referring to this element of the 2008 Farm Bill:
The 2008 Farm Bill reduced the limit for adjusted gross income from $2.5 million to a three-year average of $500,000 of non-farm income. After three years of non-farm income averaging above $500,000, a farmer or entity would lose eligibility for commodity or disaster payments. To qualify for direct payments, farmers or farm entities must also have a three-year average adjusted-gross income of $750,000 or less in farm income.
The old direct payment limit was much higher (and it's worth noting that the Senate version of the 2008 Farm Bill set the direct payment income limit at $250,000 - the level Obama claims to want). The sticky wicket here has to do with how you set eligibility and whether the new rules will apply to 2009's crop year - all of which is up to the USDA to determine. It's been a, shall we say, contentious rulemaking process. Vilsack previously announced he was extending the public comment period for the rule with industry lobbyists and Senators not lacking for suggestions.

My guess is that the President was sharing with his Ag Chief a little rhetorical love and not announcing a new policy. I'm not even sure if he could revisit subsidies outside the five-year Farm Bill window even if he wanted to.

Photo by Bern@t used under a CC license

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