How it All Went Down

As we’ve mentioned many times, the fight over payment limitations usually breaks down by region- which actually means by crop. There are five main program crops- corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. Cotton and rice receive the highest per-acre payments by far, and are primarily planted in the South (plus California). Because of those high per-acre payments (over $200 for cotton and rice vs. $60 for corn, the next closest) the farmers of those crops would be affected by payment limitations at a much smaller number of acres than a corn/soybean/wheat farmer, who usually hails from the Midwest or thereabouts.

This is why Midwesterners have generally favored payment limits and Southerners (plus CA) oppose them so forcefully. But enough of those Midwesterners have gone along with the Southerners to ensure the preservation of unlimited farm program checks. And John Pucheu, head of the National Cotton Council, understands this political dynamic very well. He explained how the House farm bill process worked quite succinctly last week:

“All of us were faced with a very difficult decision — whether to agree to a package containing significant payment limit reforms in return for a pledge from Chairman Peterson and House leadership to fully support cotton’s provisions in the Committee bill and to oppose damaging amendments to the cotton program and further payment limit restrictions,” said Pucheu.

“If we didn’t agree and decided to stay where we are on current payment limits, we would have done so without the House leadership’s support and would have had to fight every amendment on our own. So, our options were obviously very limited, and we made the decision to support Chairman Peterson’s package.”…

The NCC chairman said he was convinced it was the right decision. “The House leadership carried out their commitment during the floor debate of the bill, starting first with a rule limiting amendments to 31 and their support throughout the remainder of the process.

“There is no doubt that we would have faced much tighter payment limit restrictions, had we tried to do this on our own. If there is any doubt, all we have to do is look at the groups who are claiming that the current payment limit package doesn’t constitute real reform.”

Well, it isn’t real reform. But it sure is interesting that Pucheu is essentially conceding that payment limit foes cannot survive a true up or down vote. They had the House leadership do their dirty work for them- blocking amendments and buying votes, all in an effort to protect those so-called farmers receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) from the feds every year .

As long as Congressional leaders will go to bat for multi-millionaires and ignore the interests of their constituents and rural America, we’ll never have real payment limits. And that’s the simple truth.

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