Farm bill would crack down on welfare fraud - WNEM TV 5

Farm bill would crack down on welfare fraud

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Big changes are one step closer for bridge card users and farmers across the nation as the senate has passed a sweeping bill that will cost nearly 1-trillion dollars over the next decade.

For the most part, the legislation would crack down on welfare fraud and abuse.

Senator Debbie Stabenow says the farm bill will save four-billion dollars. But the proposal will also have pretty significant impact on farmers in mid-Michigan. It all has to do with subsidies farmers receive in the event of inflation of crop prices. The last time the U.S. government passed a sweeping farm bill was way back in the 1970's.

Bay County farmer John Burke says it's about time legislators plant seeds for another such bill. "It's been time for over a year, every time they start to work on it, something comes up," said Burke.

Burke is actually happy to see passage of the 2013 Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act in the U.S. Senate, which will have a direct impact on his business.

And as long as the prices of those crops are selling above what it costs to produce them, life's good for Burke. "In those years when the price cost of production is five dollars a bushel for corn, and we're selling it for four dollars a bushel, that extra dollar would come in from the USDA," said Burke.

Burke, himself, has benefited from that. But that would end under the 2013 Farm Bill. Programs affecting farmers account for 41-point-3 billion dollars of the farm bill. If made law, it would cut any programs that shield farmers from steep fluctuation in crop prices, saving a projected 17-point-4 billion dollars over ten years.

Burke is fine with that -- for now. That's because he's profited from what he harvests. Burke doesn't want to think about what would happen if it were the other way around.

If the bill becomes law, there is a portion that would help cushion the blow from the loss of those direct payments.

Right now, the federal government pays about 7-billion dollars a year to help cover crop insurance premiums.

The senate farm bill calls for the government to spend an additional 5-billion per year to cover the deductibles farmers have to pay before their insurance kicks in.

Senator Stabenow also says the bill would support 16-million American jobs and save taxpayers billions.

The legislation would also set policy for programs to protect environmentally sensitive land, international food aid and other projects to help rural communities.

The house will take up its own version of the farm bill next month. It would cut 1-point-5 billion more from food stamps than the senate's version.

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