United States Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), along with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), today introduced a bill that would eliminate agriculture direct payments subsidies completely and permanently.
Created in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act, direct payments were intended to serve as a temporary, transitional handout to farmers as they moved in a more market-oriented direction. Unfortunately, Congress made direct payments permanent in 2002 and they will have cost taxpayers more than $56 billion by the end of 2013. An assessment from CBO indicates that eliminating direct payments would save taxpayers $5 billion each year.
As further reasoning for their elimination, a report from the Government Accountability Office noted that from 2003-2011, $10.6 billion in direct payments were made to recipients who ended up planting crops on the land other than those that qualified them for the payment in the first place. They also found that taxpayers shelled out nearly $3 million in 2011 for farms that didn't even farm their land. Direct payments were zeroed out in both the Senate-passed and House Committee-approved versions of the most recent Farm Bill reauthorization, yet they unfortunately continue.
"Direct payments are a symbol of government largesse," said Flake. "When it comes to controlling federal spending, we reap what we sow. An easy way to start is to eliminate direct payments permanently and instead direct the funds toward deficit reduction."
Senator Flake has long felt that direct agricultural subsidies should end and instead be put toward deficit reduction. In the 112th Congress, then-Congressman Flake introduced the Reducing the Deficit through Eliminating Agriculture Direct Payment Subsidies Act, or REAPS Act, which would have permanently eliminated direct payments subsidies and redirected the authorized funds toward deficit reduction.