If you’ve ever wondered why Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and other Midwest senators are such ardent supporters of stricter payment limits, the results of a new W.K. Kellogg Foundation study may enlighten you.
The foundation commissioned a public opinion survey of 900 registered voters in Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas. The survey, which was conducted June 27-30, had a margin of error of +/-5.67 points.
It found that a strong, bi-partisan majority oppose any cuts in USDA jobs programs, nutrition programs and programs to protect land and water, and most would resist reductions in commodity subsidy programs. But respondents also said they would support limiting direct payments to single farms to no more than $250,000.
Two-thirds said they would be less likely to support a member of Congress who votes to cut jobs programs in rural communities, as well as environmental and nutrition programs.
“In contrast, a majority of voters in each state describe themselves as more likely to support a member who supports limiting direct payments to single farms to no more than $250,000,” the foundation said in a press release.
The foundation, which provides grants for improving health, food systems and rural development in the United States, Latin America and Africa, said voters in Iowa and Minnesota and Kansas were not optimistic about the current direction of the country.
“Large differences emerge in how Republicans and Democrats view this with 27 percent of Republicans saying things are off on the wrong track compared to 82 percent of Democrats,” it said. “Other key constituencies in these three states share the same view: 61 percent of independents, 44 percent of voters with farm incomes, 58 percent of rural voters and 58 percent of seniors.”
Voters in all three states oppose cuts in USDA programs, often by convincing margins, the foundation said. But they also support limiting direct payments to the same degree. “Notably, support for limits on single farm payments jumps to 68 percent among households with farm income and to 70 percent among Republicans.”
The foundation said surveys rarely deliver such a sharp and clear message that bi-partisan majorities oppose cuts in USDA and commodity programs that underlie the economic well-being of rural communities. But it cautioned against ideas that support for stricter payment limits represent a desire to punish farmers.
“The sentiment for limiting payments rises higher among farm income voters than among voters as a whole. Instead, it would seem to be the case that in tight fiscal times, voters in these states believe it is time to draw a line as to what is and is not reasonable for the government to directly give to any single farm.”
The survey doesn’t get into the nuances of farm program payments or differences in farm structures, but it’s obvious that farm organizations such as the National Cotton Council have their work cut out for them as Congress debates a new budget and a new farm bill.