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Mississippi Farms Concerned About Subsidy Cuts

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 07 Jul 2011 03:40pm | comments
Plantation manager Jimmy Grant.

Mississippi farmers could be forced to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies as part a debt ceiling deal being worked out in Washington. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that some farmers worry that ending the subsidies could put them out of business.

A farm hand uses a large vacuum to clean up the stables at Providence Plantation, a sprawling 4-thousand acre plantations in central Mississippi.

The plantation manager Jimmy Grant says he leases 3-thousand acres to other farmers, and losing those subsidies could push those smaller farms out of business.

"It is life and death for them and right now they are counting on the direct payment. There hasn't been much of a counter-cyprical for the last few years but they are absolutely counting on that direct payment. It has been part of their budget every year and is part of their bottom line," Grant said.

Grant says the subsidies provide a price floor that makes farming possible year-to-year despite changes in commodity prices.

Bruce Kraft runs a 27-hundred acre family farm, raising cotton, beans and corn.

Kraft says his farm would not have survived this long without the subsidies...but as subsidies have been reduced over the years, farms have become less reliant on them.

"Now if commodity prices go back down, with our expenses and everything high the way they are, then things are going to change. If we lose our subsidy payments and things go back to the way they were five or ten years ago it would be a disaster," Kraft said.

Commodity prices, especially for cotton, are at record highs, but both farmers think it is a bad idea to rely on continued record prices.

Republicans in Congress are calling for trillions in cuts, and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker says even the farm subsidies should but eligible for cuts.

"With the government borrowing 40-cents out of every dollar it spends, I think everything has to be looked at. Even some programs that we have relied on," Wicker said.

Still, Wicker and Senator Thad Cochran say it would be wrong to disproportionately target farmers as part of the final deal to raise the federal government's debt ceiling.



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