Colloquy with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) on their amendment to S. 3240, a bill to reauthorize agriculture programs through 2017 and for other purposes.
Mr. Coburn: I want to compliment my colleague in outlining very clearly what this amendment does. The farm and ag production in this country is vital, both to the country and to our export markets. We have, through the years, tried many different approaches to make sure we had the stability and the production power in this country for our needs and also to many beneficial aspects of our foreign policy where we use agricultural products. If you are a business other than agriculture and you have decided that regardless of the mistakes you might make or the uncontrolled variables that might impact your business or the downturn in the economy that you can actually with 62% of the government funding, buy an insurance policy to guarantee you a profit. That is what this new farm bill has moved to.
That is going to be our agricultural program as far as the senate is [concerned]. There is a real differential there between the rest of commerce and the farm program in America. I understand the need for that but this bill actually increases our costs for the crop insurance by $2 billion, as its written.
What the senator from Illinois and I have proposed is a commonsense earnings limit that is associated with every other program in title 1 that would say, "we're going to help you, but we're just not going to help you as much because you, therefore, and by your own success have the means to help yourself."
It [the farm bill] adds $94.6 billion. And what Senator Durbin and I are proposing is $1.2 billion...A lot of people don't realize the advances that our farmers and the industries that supply them have made. As senator durbin pointed out, farm income has been up the last five years and is projected to continue to increase.
Input costs for fertilizer are going down. Input costs for seed and other chemicals are going up. We want a viable farm program but what we don't want is the next generation paying for additional wealth for those that in fact can afford to insure themselves.
This is a very modest proposal. We could have had an amendment that said, if you make over $750,000, we shouldn't be subsidizing any of your crop insurance. We would still have a crop insurance program for this very well-off 4% had we done that. What we said is now is the time to start looking at this.
We'll look at it again with the next farm bill but certainly those who are so well-positioned to maximize profits off of agriculture don't need a 62% subsidy to their crop insurance. This is a controversial amendment, we understand that. We know a lot of people are going to disagree with us. But the point is, at how much income should you be able to make -- should the average hardworking American still be paying taxes to supplement your income?
And that's really the question. Does a factory worker making $45,000 a year need to supplement somebody who is making $10 million or $12 million or $15 million a year through a crop insurance program? All we're saying is this needs to be moderated in a way that won't impact anybody except this top 4 percent. If we do that, what we'll do is start solving, as the Senator from Illinois said -- start solving some of our budget.
It is not a lot compared to what our problems are, but the way get out of $1 trillion deficits is like this. What we're going to be asking is for everybody to sacrifice. What Senator Durbin and I are saying is to the best, the most efficient, to those who make the most money, we want you to start sacrificing now by limiting by 15% the subsidy that comes to you from this bill.
It is common sense. It is also fair. I would have gone further in a lot of areas, but I think we have an agreement that this is something that we should do, we can do and it will have no negative impact in terms of our producon agriculture, in terms of quantity or quality. And with that, I'd yield the floor.
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