- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $275,000-per-farm cap on agriculture subsidies yesterday, threatening the future of a Democratic farm bill.
Under existing rules, farms can receive unlimited subsidies for production of grain, cotton and soybeans, and growers can get $80,000 more under a separate program that provides fixed annual payments.
Southern Democrats trying to protect subsidies to large cotton and rice operations threatened to abandon the bill if the payment limit was approved. But a move to kill the cap failed 66-31, and the Senate then passed it on a voice vote.
Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, said the subsidy cap was a "poison pill." Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, warned that the measure would be "catastrophic for Southern farm interests."
Backers of the measure, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, said big government payments were driving up land prices and allowing large producers to push smaller operations out of business.
"We don't have enough money for everybody; let's have the best price support we can, from the bottom up," said Mr. Dorgan.
In contrast, a House-passed version of the farm bill would allow farmers to get even larger subsidy payments.
The Democratic Senate bill, which has been sharply criticized by Republicans, would expand and extend existing farm programs for five years. It needs support of Southern Democrats to pass.
Midwest populists propose new subsidy restrictions nearly every time farm programs are up for renewal, as they are this year. But the idea has gotten new support in the Senate after a series of news stories last year about six-figure and seven-figure payments that some farmers and landowners have been collecting.
Under one program, a Florida real-estate developer who controls 130,000 acres of farm and ranch land received at least $1.2 million in subsidies for the 2000 crop, according to Agriculture Department records. King Ranch Inc., a Houston-based company that owns 825,000 acres, got more than $638,000.

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