Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Senator Tester on Payment Limits

Comments of farmer and Senator Jon Tester on the floor of the U.S. Senate speaking in favor of stricter farm bill payment limits... editor's note, this was first posted on the Rural Populist and is reproduced here courtesy of the Rural Populist -

Mr. President, I thank Senator Baucus for allowing me to speak. I also thank the good Senator from North Dakota.

Mr. President, I rise to speak on amendment No. 464, the Grassley-Dorgan amendment on farm payment limitations, making those limitations max out at $250,000. That is a quarter of a million dollars. That is how much money that is going to be maxed out for individual family farmers to get. That is a reasonable request. I think it makes the farm bill more defendable to the American people.

I am a family farmer. I understand family farmers are the backbone of this country. They keep our food security there so we do not have people going hungry. What the farm program was meant to do, and has always been meant to be, is a safety net for farmers so when market prices drop they have that safety net to depend upon. There is not one farmer I know of who does not want to get their income from the marketplace. So we need to keep it that way.

We need to encourage fair trade deals. We need to encourage more competition in the marketplace. We need to make sure our freight rates are, what I would call, not abusive, if we are going to keep family farmers on the land.

Some 30 years ago, the student body in the high school I went to in a farming community had 160 kids in it. Today, that same student body is less than half that size because we have not had a farm bill that has worked for the farmers.

This amendment makes sense because it puts a cap of $250,000 on the benefits from farm program subsidies and eliminates those big agribusinesses that have been taking money they do not need, quite frankly. They do not need that safety net that the farm program subsidies provide in our farm program.

So with that, Mr. President, I ask that all the Members of the Senate support amendment No. 464, the Grassley-Dorgan amendment, because it is the right thing to do.

Thank you, Senator Tester... the Rural Populist


  • At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just cannot believe that Grassley withdrew the amendment! I don't understand it? I was told that there was alot of pressure from both sides to do so - John, could you give us some more details about this?

  • At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, this is Dan Owens at the Center for Rural Affairs. We were upset that Grassley withdrew the amendment as well, as we truly believed that we would have won the vote.
    From what we hear, Grassley withdrew the amendment for several reasons. First, the Senate Democratic leadership asked him to pull the amendment. Rumor has it that Senator Lincoln of Arkansas threatened to vote against the budget resolution if the amendment was included- and the leadership needed every single vote it could get since the senate is a 51-49 split between Republicans and Democrats.
    Second, several senators who are normally reliable votes for effective payment limitations were not happy that this was being proposed in the budget resolution. They felt that the 2007 farm bill was the appropriate place for the payment limits debate, and they threatened to vote against the amendment. So Senator Grassley, wary of losing votes, pulled the amendment.
    While we would have loved to win the vote (which we were on our way to having happen), much good came out of the process even without a vote. Here at the Center for Rural Affairs, we got a much better "read" on where most Senators stand on payment limits than we had previously. Everyone was also inspired by the truly amazing efforts of all of the people who took the time to respond to our action requests- and we can say for sure that those efforts switched the votes of at least four Senators, which is an amazing thing. Last, this was an educational experience for us, but also for the newly elected senators. The remarks posted from Senator Tester are his first as a Senator on the farm bill, and they are great. That is a result of the incredible outpouring of emails, phone calls, and faxes that Senator Tester received. Through this process, we have put the entire US Senate on notice- the issue of strong, effective payment limitations is one their constituents care deeply about. Thanks- Dan


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