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The Des Moines Register - Obama Farm Plan Limits Subsidies

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Location: Fairfax, IA


The Des Moines Register - Obama Farm Plan Limits Subsidies

By Jason Clayworth

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unveiled a farm plan here Tuesday that would limit farm subsidies, push for tougher fines for rural polluters and establish country-of-origin labeling.

Obama's farm plan, which would cost the United States an estimated $300 million a year in new spending, would also include the elimination of income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000, conservation and land protection measures, and investments in bioenergy expansions.

"What we've learned, above all else, is that we're at a critical and urgent moment for rural America," Obama said, referring to the dozens of meetings his campaign held with rural Iowans during the summer to help draft the plan. "Our economy is in transition, our environment faces growing peril."

Farm subsidies have drawn national attention, particularly after a federal report this year showed that $1.1 billion was paid by the federal government to 172,801 dead people between 1999 and 2005. In addition, some large corporations have been paid millions, which Obama says has hurt family farms.

The plan proposed Tuesday would limit such payments to a maximum of $250,000 a year. Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, estimated that such limits would save the federal government $100 million.

"Too many family farmers are being squeezed as big agribusiness takes up larger shares of federal subsidies, takes up more market share, manipulates prices and contracts, makes it harder for family farmers to control how they run their own farms," Obama said.

He said his plan is strong because it was put together almost exclusively from the feedback he and his campaign got from rural residents.

"I think that people who live in rural communities can feel confident that I'm not a newcomer to this," he said.

Obama held the news conference at a nearly 200-acre corn and soybean farm in rural Fairfax owned by Sally Williams and her family. Key issues for her family include the environment and being able to sustain a livable income.

"Hopefully, I'm going to live here before I see a subdivision come in," Williams said, noting the nearby developments.

The Williams family leases much of the land to Shawn Nove, who takes care of the row crops on the land. He said caps on farm subsidies would create a level playing field.

"You look on the Web sites and you see a lot of big corporations getting a lot of money, and they're not really involved in the farming," Nove said. "It's a huge issue."


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