Although a majority of the Senate voted in favor of the Grassley-Dorgan amendment Thursday that would set a "hard-cap" on farm payments, it went down in defeat as a result of the 60 vote threshold imposed by the Senate.
The amendment, sponsored by Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., would have limited farm payments to $250,000 per married couple. It also closed loopholes some people used to circumvent rules and also required recipients to be actively involved in farming to qualify for payments.
"Millions of dollars are being sucked out of this farm program in large payments for large corporate agri-factories," Dorgan said. "And we've got farm program payments to people who have never farmed and never will farm."
Later Thursday, an amendment from Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., which would have created a more stringent Adjusted Gross Income test for eligibility for commodity programs was rejected. Under this amendment, a full time farmer would have to have an AGI below $750,000, while a part-time farmer would need an AGI below $250,000 to qualify for program benefits.
"I am disappointed that the Senate defeated Senator Klobuchar's amendment that would have helped bring reform to the farm program," says acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner. "Its defeat signals yet another missed opportunity by the Senate to enact true reform."
While Conner expressed disappointment, Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee praised the Senate for its decision.
"The farm bill already includes a provision that reduces the income level for determining program eligibility by 70%," Chambliss says. "We have made significant reforms by reducing the $2.5 million AGI limit down to $1 million in 2009 and $750,000 by 2010."
The Senate also used the 60 vote rule to reject amendments on meat packer rules, crop insurance and eminent domain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both say the farm bill will be finished this week and have set the goal for all voting to be completed by noon Friday.