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Payment limitations are commonplace in the farm bill debate. Just this week long-time payment limits advocate Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tried introducing a hard cap of $250,000 in the budget debate. Grassley and Sen. Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced an amendment earlier this week that would take the limit down from the $360,000 limit and close loopholes that allow entities to double dip.
In Grassley's floor speech, he explained that the amendment would save $486 million over five years and $1.07 billion over 10 years, and specifies that the savings be applied to renewable energy/rural development, conservation and nutrition. As mentioned in earlier posts, the Senate budget called for a reserve fund for the farm bill of $15 billion. However, that money must be offset somewhere else. Grassley said the payment limitation amendment "is part of the solution to the reserve fund dilemma."
"Every penny of this fund will be needed if we are to adequately respond to the major needs and opportunities to increase energy independence, restore cuts in conservation, improve farm income through value-added grants, reduce hunger, and invest in the future of food and agriculture through cutting edge research," he stated.
Grassley's payment limit arch enemy Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., took to the Senate floor this week opposing the amendment. He said it is the Agriculture Committee's responsibility to address proposed farm program payment limitations concurrent with other critical agriculture policy options during the farm bill reauthorization process. The merits of this policy proposal should be fully debated in the appropriate forum - the 2007 farm bill - not during the budget debate, he said.
And so Grassley conceded.
During debate of the budget resolution Thursday afternoon, Senator Chuck Grassley pulled from consideration his amendment that would have limited the amount of farm payments an individual could receive.
"Throughout this debate I have been hearing concerns from senators who were considering voting against my payment limits amendment simply because it was on a non-binding budget resolution. I don't want my colleagues to have any excuses to vote against good policy, so Senator Dorgan and I asked for the amendment to be pulled from consideration."
If you're in favor of current payment limitations, you can sigh a breath of relief. But realize Grassley has been fighting for stricter limits for decades. Even though he conceded in the budget debate, he's promised placing a hard cap on farm payments and getting rid of the loopholes remains a top priority for him as the farm bill debate begins. "I'm confident we'll have the votes to get it done," he said.
This debate is far from over.