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Idaho farmers receive less in crop subsidies

File photo courtesy Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

File photo courtesy Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

Projections indicate that direct payments from the government to Idaho farmers and ranchers dropped 17 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, economists said.

The projections were based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, University of Idaho agricultural economists told The Capital Press in a story Jan. 8.

“Our projections are that government payments to Idaho farmers are going to continue to decline,” said John Foltz, dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

The subsidies are paid to farmers whether they plant or not, and are part of the farm bill. Idaho received about $105 million last year.

The GOP-controlled U.S. House and Democratic-led Senate spent a chunk of last year wrangling over renewing the farm bill after passing competing versions of the five-year, roughly $500 billion measure. The two sides disagree about crop subsidies, among other things.

The recent numbers show that government payments to Idaho producers amounted to only 3.9 percent of net income. By comparison, payments accounted for 8.7 percent of total U.S. net farm income.

Foltz said Idaho agriculture will not be harmed as much as other states by potential reductions in payments because Idaho isn’t as dependent on government payments.

“They are important for some people but for the whole sector, they’re not that important,” Foltz said.

Idaho produces less wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans and rice than some states, said Ron Abbott, farm programs chief for the Idaho Farm Service Agency. Those crops receive 80 percent of direct payment dollars, he said.

“We just don’t grow a lot of those crops,” he said.

Of the money sent to Idaho last year for crops, about half was for production support. Conservation programs took in 38 percent, price support programs 7 percent, and emergency programs 5 percent.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. Jan. 9 with more information.

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