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Farm Bill's Subsidy Costs May Rise

Currently, corn farmers receive a government subsidy when prices drop below $2.63 a bushel. But critics say that subsidy does not protect farmers who bring in low yields in a year when prices are high.

Some farm organizations and agricultural reformers have voiced support for a wider safety net along the lines of the new program.

"It's a program that is more responsive to the problems that farmers face, and the principle is widely supported even in the administration," Harkin said.

But as the farm bill moved through Congress, lawmakers sweetened the subsidy provisions, in part to encourage more farmers to sign up. The final version of the program is more generous than ones proposed earlier by the House and the Bush administration.

The new program insures a farmer's revenue at close to the current high prices. USDA estimates that a farmer could draw a payment even with corn prices at $4.39 a bushel.

"They have taken a good idea and gone to an extreme in terms of creating an opportunity for revenue flows at the highest possible level," Conner said.

Morgan is a contract writer for The Post and a fellow of the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan policy institute.

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