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Stop $5 Billion in Farm Checks

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Finally, it appears, Washington is ready to scale back billions of dollars in wasteful farm subsidies.

It's about time.

In the days leading up to today's influential Republican presidential primary in Florida, leading candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both took shots at government favors for Florida's sugar growers.

This is progress.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, also expressed hope last week here in Wisconsin that wasteful government handouts will be scaled back this year.

"These are huge taxpayer subsidies, most of the time going to big agribusiness, and it's not helping our family farmers," Kind told his agriculture advisory group Thursday, according to the La Crosse Tribune. "We've got to stop this nonsense in light of the huge budget deficits we're facing."

Kind noted that a lot of the direct payments to landowners for growing crops are sent to individuals living in big cities such as Manhattan, Chicago and San Francisco.

"These aren't even people who are working the land," Kind noted.

The same is true here in Madison.

A State Journal editorial in November identified hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidy checks going to Madison addresses, including fancy homes on the lake and in the tony neighborhoods of Maple Bluff and Shorewood Hills.

A safety net for farmers hit by hard times is justified. That's what price support payments are for. And some subsidies encourage conservation, which Kind still favors.

But $5 billion in direct payments to landowners each year are handed out regardless of need, occupation or high commodity prices. Just as bad, these payments inflate land prices, making it harder for young farmers to get started.

President Barack Obama last year added his voice to the push to end the $5 billion in direct payments. This year is key because the five-year federal Farm Bill is up for renewal.

Wisconsin's congressional delegation should help keep the momentum going to finally rein in these excessive payments as America struggles to ease its soaring debt.


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