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Farm bill cuts include conservation payouts

Sun., June 10, 2012, midnight

WASHINGTON – The Conservation Reserve Program would shrink under the Senate version of the new farm bill.

The 2012 Farm Bill eventually would reduce the acreage cap to 25 million acres, a 2 million-acre drop from the level scheduled for this fall when some CRP contracts expire.

CRP gives farmers annual payments to remove highly erodible land from production in order to benefit soil and water quality.

“Most everything was cut in the farm bill to contribute to a $23 billion deficit reduction,” said Janeen Heath, a spokeswoman for Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The reduction in CRP would save $3.8 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.

Even bigger changes would be made by canceling direct payments to farmers and replacing them with subsidized insurance programs.

Jim Thompson, of Farmington, Wash., has 150 acres of his 50,000-acre farm in the CRP and said he understands the federal government has to cut the budget.

“But, of course, as farmers, we don’t want to see unfair cutting in agriculture,” Thompson said.

Economic pressures, as well as the worldwide need for more food and renewable energy, are prompting changes in the farm bill. More focus would be put on conserving grasslands than croplands.

“Our rapidly growing population demands that America’s farmers double their production over the next few decades,” Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote in a summary of the bill. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, and a new one is expected to get a vote in the Senate this month.

Chenfei Zhang

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