Mississippi Senators vote against salary cap for farm subsidies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unable to agree on whether millionaires should be taxed more, Democrats and Republicans are in rare accord on one issue: Growers with million-dollar incomes shouldn’t reap farm subsidies.

In an emphatic vote early Friday, 84 senators voted to discontinue certain farm subsidies for people who make more than a million dollars in adjusted gross income. The practical impact of the vote may be marginal — current limits are about $1.2 million at most — but it represents a sea change in how the heavily rural Senate views farm support. In recent years, many votes to limit subsidies have failed in the Senate.

“I do think sentiment has changed,” says former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a Democrat who pushed for years to lower subsidy limits. “When they are under this much pressure to cut spending they have to take an honest look at what’s happening, and you can’t justify direct payments under these circumstances.”

Direct payments, the type of subsidy targeted in Friday’s vote, have long been criticized because they are paid regardless of crop prices and yields, unlike other more insurance-like programs that kick in when prices drop or crops are damaged.

Voting against the $1 million income qualification cap in addition to Stabenow and Roberts were:

Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

The vote was similar to one earlier this year to repeal a tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that until recently had enjoyed popular support in Congress. But those who have long lobbied to reduce farm subsidies say they will wait to see the final outcome before they will celebrate change.