Vilsack’s comments on direct payments will surely perk up interest among larger farm operations. “We released today our income forecasts for 2011 (for more, see Net farm income: 20 percent jump predicted ). What that basically showed is that while there’s overall income growth in agriculture it isn’t necessarily equitably distributed among all sized operations.”

Even so, “the safety net is a very, very important part of our overall commitment to agriculture and in this country. … But it needs to be targeted and focused on the people who need it the most.

“With incomes rising, roughly, 30 percent and some of that increase being directed at some of the larger operations, we feel this is a proposal that merits consideration. During the last couple of years, there has been some indication from (members) of the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee – particularly on the Republican side – in some interest in this. So, we’ve proposed it again in hopes of getting consensus. 

“To me, it’s really about making sure the safety net does what it needs to do. And, at the same time, we need to be focused, as well – not just on reducing budgets in this respect but also increasing investments and ways we can help producers to sell more.”

Thus the reason for the Obama administration’s “promoting additional export assistance because that’s targeted towards the larger commercial enterprises. It’s the reason why we continue to focus on regional and local food systems because that helps the small producer. And it’s the reason why we focus additional resources on things like biofuels because that – and conservation payments -- can be targeted towards folks in the middle.

“If you understand the breakdown of size-of-operation, commodities and so forth, you can see there is a need for a safety net. But it needs to be targeted and focused.”