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Oklahoma farmers are willing to take some federal cuts

In Washington, the president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau says farmers are willing to do their part as Congress tries to slash federal spending but doesn't want to bear an unfair share.
by Chris Casteel Published: March 27, 2012

/articleid/3661049/1/pictures/1679890">Photo - Mike Spradling Oklahoma Farm Bureau President
Mike Spradling Oklahoma Farm Bureau President

Lucas, of Cheyenne, said last week that he would caution people about “reading too much into the numbers” in President Barack Obama's budget — which also calls for deep cuts to farm programs — or the House Republican budget. The numbers, he said, were only “suggestions.”

Lucas said his committee this year would write “a fiscally responsible farm bill that ensures Americans continue to have a safe, affordable and stable food supply.”

The president and House Republicans have targeted so-called direct payments, which are a creature of the 1996 farm bill. Unlike historical crop subsidies that are tied to crop prices in the market, direct payments are made to people whether they're still farming or not.

They have been highly controversial because they are not tied to crop production — and were originally meant to be phased out.

$81M paid out in state

According to the Environmental Work Group's database on farm payments, about 27,000 people in Oklahoma shared more than $81 million in direct payments in 2010. Slightly more than half of those people received less than $1,000 that year, but six farms received more than $100,000.

“We realize that direct payments are gone,” Spradling said. “We're willing to give those up. But we need to shift some of that toward a self-help program, such as the crop insurance.”

Spradling said farmers “don't want a farm bill program that guarantees a profit to farmers and ranchers.”

He said, “We can certainly assume a certain amount of risk. We're just in business just like everyone else.”

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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Compared to an overall economy that is recovering slowly, the American agricultural sector is improving dramatically.''

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