Well, the House has published their farm bill "framework" (pdf) and word from DC is that it includes a 50% increase in the direct payment limit. This was included in the House-passed farm bill from last summer (and we studied it in a previous report), but it was hard to imagine that such an increase would ever be included in the final farm bill. Let's back up a minute to examine the sheer brazenness of this.
Direct payments are the ones paid no matter what. They average about $28 per acre for corn, and a nice $96 per acre for rice. Given the high prices for every commodity today, they are pretty much the vast majority of payments expected to be made over the life of the next farm bill. Many reasonable people are already questioning whether farmers should be getting these payments at all- $6 corn and $12 soybeans lead to people questioning the need for automatic payments for farmers (though the administration loves them). Rightfully so. Anyway, politicians like Colin Peterson have been running around talking about how there's just no money for anything new in the farm bill. These "pay-go" rules are just so tough, we can't fund everything we would like, yada yada yada. But somehow, they've found the money to increase farm program payments for mega-farms. Wow.
So we can't get a damn dime for rural development, but we can shovel out the money for even bigger checks to mega-farms. This is utter nonsense. I suppose I have to admire the guts of of the House farm bill negotiators to include this junk. After this, there's not much they can come up with that will shock me.