Farmers React to Proposed Cuts

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For 20 years, fifth generation farmer Patrick Hickey makes his living growing corn, soybeans and cattle on this Stillman Valley farm. Like other stateline farmers, Hickey receives various farm subsidies, a handout he believes the state could do more with less.

"My reaction is positive, because as far as I'm concerned, the best thing that could happen is if American farmers are weaned off subsidies," Hickey said.

Farm subsidies from Uncle Sam to Illinois are huge, estimated at more than $9 billion during the last nine years. Larger farms receive the majority of the dollars, which Hickey believes dulls the competitive edge for Illinois farmers.

"We can benefit, because as a farmer, when you are more efficient, you will compete more in the world market, and the subsidies tend to inhibit the competition," Hickey said.

Hickey thinks if farmers receive less in subsidies, the result would be more agricultural innovation. He argues farmers would be forced to maximize more on their farms with less, instead of subsidies, which he calls an economic wash.

"On the surface, it goes right to the farmer, but in reality, it's passed right down to the suppliers and right back to where it started essentially," Hickey said.

And with a proposed $300 million cut in the agriculture budget, Hickey adds President Bush isn't out to slash farmers’ livelihoods, but to make for better overall farming.

"Farmers need to be economically intelligent, and subsidies allow people to be somewhat complacent," Hickey said.

Of course, these proposed subsidy cuts are a long way from actually happening. Congress must give its approval later this year.