- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration yesterday proposed to reduce farm spending by an estimated $18 billion over the next five years.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is not seeking major changes in the nation’s farm subsidy program, which major farm groups and lawmakers in Congress want to retain.

But the administration is seeking, among other things, to eliminate farm payments for wealthy producers, limiting subsidy payments to those making less than $200,000 in adjusted gross income annually. The current income cap is $2.5 million.

That would rule out payments for nearly 80,000 producers who currently are eligible, officials said. Those producers collect about 4.5 percent of overall farm payments. The limit on payments would save an estimated $1.5 billion over 10 years.

“I don’t know if there is anywhere in the country you can go where $200,000 adjusted gross net income is not a lot of income,” Deputy Secretary Chuck Connor said. “You’re the richest guy in the county.”

It’s difficult to know just who would be cut off, said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, which tracks subsidies. Mr. Cook said many high-profile recipients, such as media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner, probably were cut off in 2002, when Congress imposed the $2.5 million income cap.

“You end up eliminating absentee owners who have a lot of income they’re trying to shelter in agriculture,” Mr. Cook said. “It could be a small-town lawyer or a business executive in Memphis who’s put some money into a cotton plantation.”

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