Most Nebraskans understand that keeping a strong safety net helps maintain a safe and affordable food supply in our country. On this basic need for all Americans we don't want to farm out what our farmers produce. I've often said if we like importing most of our oil, we're going to love importing most of our food.
At the same time, everyone also understands that our national debt is far too high. It's dangerous for our country's future and needs to be addressed or our future won't be as bright as we all want it to be.
These thoughts were in my mind when I recently joined Senator Chuck Grassley and a bipartisan group of senators on an effort to draw a line in the sand on federal farm payments. With the farm economy booming and our deficit far too big, the time has come to rein in these payments.
Unfortunately, loopholes have allowed mega farms to collect mega payments for quite awhile which hasn't helped the hundreds of thousands of small and medium size farming operations that are important to keeping a safe and affordable food supply. I've heard that 70 percent of all farm payments go to 10 percent of our farmers.
I have believed for a long time, along with most Nebraskans, that our federal farm program shouldn't encourage consolidation in agriculture. We want to limit mega payments to make sure that doesn't happen.
I've worked in the past with Senator Grassley before on efforts to limit farm payments. We've been successful and we are now working to carry on the limits we've placed in the last two farm bill and make them stronger.
Our plan would cap farm payments at $250,000 per year for any single farm. I know a number of Nebraskans think that cap is still too high. I also know that agriculture is different in different parts of the country, and that this is a good place to start. Today, there's no firm limit on farm payments.
By setting firm limits on farm payments, Congress can make sure they go to those who should receive them, small and medium size farms. Having a firm limit also makes sense to help get control of the federal budget. Washington needs to cut the spending in many areas of the budget and here's one way to contribute to that goal.
So, it seems to me that limiting payments so mega farms don't get them any longer has a number of benefits. It reduces the federal budget, slows farm consolidation, helps small and medium size farms stay in business and keeps vitality in our rural communities.
It's our hope this payment limits plan will be in the major farm bill Congress is working on to set federal farm policy for several years. I've often said maintaining the safety net needs to move in the direction of crop insurance and away from direct farm payments, and ending mega payments to mega farms heads us in that direction, too.