Lead negotiatiors strike back-room deal on controversial issues.

Yesterday, lead Farm Bill negotiators – the two chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees – finished their negotiations. Settling remaining differences on dairy policy and farm program payment limit reform cleared the way for a final deal on the remaining issues on the table.

“Big agribusiness likes to throw its weight around behind closed doors in Washington,” said Brian Depew, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “That is what they have done as House and Senate negotiators met in private to hammer out this final deal.”

“The reports we’ve heard indicate that the lead negotiators intend to reject the bipartisan farm subsidy reform that was included in the farm bills passed in both the House and Senate,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. “If what we’ve heard proves true, the deal will result in virtually unlimited farm program payments continuing to inure to the nation’s largest and wealthiest mega-farms.”

And those mega-farms will continue to drive up land prices, drive their smaller neighbors out of business and shut the beginning farmers out of the land market, Bruckner explained.

According to Bruckner, instead of a $50,000 annual limit on the primary payments (double that for married couples), the lead negotiators have decided instead on a $125,000 limit (again, doubled for married couples).  Even more appallingly, the four lead negotiators have evidently decided not to adopt the House and Senate-passed provisions to close the loopholes that currently allow large, wealthy farms to collect many multiples of the normal payment limit. Instead they leave the loopholes entirely intact and punt any decisions about the loopholes to the Obama administration.

“We urge the remaining Conference Committee members to reject this undemocratic maneuver and retain the farm subsidy reforms that Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Jeff Fortenberry have fought so hard to win bipartisan majority support for in both the House and Senate,” concluded Bruckner.