* Bill would lower cap on farm payments by
* Cut proposed by Republican is larger than Obama plan
* No payment to Brazil, winner of WTO cotton case
* Bill is cleared for vote on U.S. House floor
WASHINGTON, May 31 A House committee voted to
cut off crop subsidies to growers with more than $250,000 a year
in adjusted gross income on Tuesday -- a dramatic tightening of
the farm safety net.
The Appropriations Committee also voted to make cotton
growers effectively pay for the $147 million a year U.S. payment
to Brazil, the victor in a trade dispute over American cotton
"It's a great sign Congress is ready to end these
subsidies," said Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and sponsor of
the cuts. Both were adopted by voice vote. Only one dissenting
vote was heard on the vote for a lower eligibility cap.
During an impromptu interview, Flake, a longtime proponent
of farm subsidy cuts, pointed to billions of dollars in crop and
ethanol supports and said, "Overall, you can't justify it."
Committee members cleared the $125 billion for a floor vote.
The bill provides money for the Agriculture Department and
related agencies for fiscal 2012, opening on Oct 1. The House
and Senate must agree on terms before it can become law.
Appropriators are under orders to reduce federal spending to
match a House-passed budget plan. The fiscal 2012 USDA bill is a
$280 million increase from this year but includes a 14 percent
cut in so-called discretionary accounts.
The wealthiest Americans are barred under the 2008 farm law
from receiving crop subsidies. People with more than $500,000 in
adjusted gross income from off-farm sources or $750,000 in
on-farm AGI are not eligible for payments.
Flake won support for a $250,000 AGI limit by saying,
"That's still pretty good income. Anything above that, we cannot
President Barack Obama attracted little immediate support
with a Feb 14 proposal to set the eligibility cap at $250,000
AGI for off-farm income and $500,000 on-farm AGI. USDA estimated
the limits would affect 30,000 people out of 1.2 million farm
A year ago, the United States said it would pay $147 million
a year to a technical assistance fund for cotton growers in
Brazil as partial resolution of a cotton dispute.
Brazil won a World Trade Organization ruling that U.S.
subsidies distorted global production. Lawmakers are expected to
revise cotton supports in a 2012 overhaul of farm policy.
"We don't have to wait for another farm bill to address
this," said Flake.
Under his approach, the money for the payments will be
subtracted from payments guaranteed annually to cotton growers,
beginning in fiscal 2013.
The National Cotton Council declined comment on the
Committee members voted later on Tuesday to shift the $147
million for payment to Brazil in fiscal 2012 to a public
nutrition program. Sponsor Rosa Delauro said she was not
concerned by prospect of noncompliance with Brazil when funding
may run short for the Women, Infants and Children feeding
(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Kim Coghill)