Proposed cuts in farm subsidies will impact many Oklahoma farms

Wednesday, February 9th 2005, 7:40 pm
By: News On 6

One of the areas in the President's federal budget proposal targeted for the sharpest cuts, is farm subsidies. Bush's budget proposal would cut federal payments to farmers by $587-million next year.

Thousands of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers would be affected. The News on 6's Heather Lewin has more on what the cuts would mean to our local producers.

Steve Kouplen makes his living off the land. “All my life, my father moved here a mile up the road from Payne County and my grandparents homesteaded over there." His 250 head of Hereford cattle and a small wheat field to feed them are his pride and joy. A way of life farmers say will be hurt by President Bush's proposed budget cuts. "It will affect every producer that receives a subsidy, whether it's wheat, cotton whatever."

The plan is to cut farm subsidies by 5% and lower the maximum payment to $250,000 per year. The current cap is $360,000.

Producers across the country are opposing the cuts. Wheat growers are at the top of the list in Oklahoma. Over the past 8 years, the state's wheat subsidies total a reported $1.5 billion. But that number can be deceiving.

According to the USDA, 60% of all farmers and ranchers do not collect federal payments. Among those who do, 10%, the largest farms get almost all the money. Supporters say the plan would stop major operations from skirting the rules and collecting payments far above the cap. "I don't care what kind of program you have; there'll be instances where it's not a perfect program."

Kouplen says big farms may get more money, but they operate just like his trying to bring in enough net income to survive. He says subsidies actually benefit consumers because they keep food affordable. Kouplen says for smaller producers the cuts won't be felt as deep because most of their subsidies already fall below the current cap. What he does fear is the entire industry bearing more than its fair share of the deficit burden. "A number of different programs are in that bill and those are all, you know food stamps and WIC payments they're expected to go up."

Kouplen says farmers understand the need for fiscal responsibility, but when drastic cuts are on the table, everyone should share in the wealth. President Bush signed the farm bill in 2002 which increased payments to farmers.

Administration officials say the proposed cuts would save more than $5-billion over the next decade.