U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the 2012 Farm Bill will cost taxpayers at least $23 billion less than the previous five-year Farm Bill. $15 billion of that cut would come from crop subsidies, including the fixed annual payments, while the rest of the reduction would be divided between land conservation programs and nutrition assistance programs such as food stamps.
"There will be a re-design of the safety net for farmers. You can expect changes in the direct payment system (to producers)," said Vilsack, who keynoted a symposium on agriculture at Bradley University.
It's important that a strong safety net remain in place to protect the nation's farmers while maintaining conservation programs that have proved so effective in recent years, he said.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to bar farm subsidies to wealthy Americans. The provision against subsidies to people with more than $1 million a year in adjusted gross income was part of a funding bill. It must be reconciled with House legislation, which has no limit, before becoming law.
The plan is expected to make revenue protection -- a shield against low prices or poor yields -- the goal of the farm program, replacing traditional price supports. Lawmakers disagree over how large of a loss farmers should absorb before triggering federal payments and the role of crop insurance.
Also being considered are payment caps ranging from $50,000 per person to $125,000 per person. There is no limit now.