Peoria Journal Star

February 8, 2002

Durbin, Fitzgerald back cap on subsidies 


WASHINGTON - Despite the opposition of Illinois farm groups, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., both
voted in favor of a $275,000-per-farm cap on agriculture subsidies that passed the Senate Thursday.

"Reports that billionaires and NBA stars are receiving farm aid from the federal government, while the average farmer struggles
to survive, undermines public confidence in farm programs," Fitzgerald said. "If we want to preserve these important programs for those who need it most, we must reform the system."

Durbin also saw the issue as one of fairness for the small farmer, an aide said.

"A lot of these larger farms are getting the lion's share of these subsidies," the Durbin aide said. "This is a big step in trying to
level the playing field.

The cap was opposed by the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Corn Growers Association as well as national farm groups.

Historically, such payment limits "have not been effective in accomplishing what they were set out to do," said Illinois Farm
Bureau president Ron Warfield.

He warned of unintended consequences.

"It starts us in a direction that basically gets the government involved in who farms and who doesn't," Warfield said.

Rodney Weinzierl, executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, complained that the measure wasn't well
thought out.

"The more a farm needs the money, the more likely they're going to hit a payment cap that drives them out of business," said Weinzierl, noting that the lower prices go, the larger the payments are.

In Illinois, 10 percent of farm-aid recipients collected 60 percent of the funds from 1996 to 2000, according to the group's
database of government figures. The group disclosed that media mogul Ted Turner, basketball player Scottie Pippen, the
University of Illinois and Caterpillar Inc. received farm aid simply by owning the land.