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Wheat farm

The upcoming re-evaluation of the 2008 farm bill is creating heated debate among politicans. Direct payments have come under particular scrutiny, with supporters saying they are a crucial safety net for farmers and critics maintaining that they are an unecessary expense at a time when massive federal budget cuts are needed. The federal budget is expected to be a driving force behind many of the issues in the farm bill’s revision. 

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a January 2011 address to the American Farm Bureau, “I mean, it’s fairly clear. I’m not going to tell you something that you haven’t already heard from your leadership. When you’re dealing with having to reduce deficits, we’re going to have to make difficult choices.” The issues are especially pressing because of the upcoming 2012 election. As a follow-up to yesterday’s 5 myths about the farm bill here are 5 facts about the farm bill:

1. Fact: Since 1995, 10% of farmers have received 74% of all subsidies
One reason subsidies are such a topic of debate in the farm bill is that they favor wealthy people and large corporations.

2. Fact: 62% of farmers do not receive payments
The Environmental Working Group’s statistics show that many farmers do not collect direct payments.

3. Fact: Nutrition programs account for almost 70% of farm bill spending
Within the 2008 farm bill 97% to 99% of the spending is divided between four programs: nutrition (67%), farm commodity support (15%), conservation (9%), and crop insurance (8%).

4. Fact: An estimated $5 billion is paid annually in direct payments
The amount of money spent on direct payments has become very controversial and critics are calling for its elimination. Divides among politicians on the topic appear to be based on regional interests rather than party lines.

5. Fact: 37 programs across 12 of the 15 titles in the 2008 farm bill do not have funding beyond 2012
Funding to continue these programs could cost between $9 and $10 billion over 5 years.