Last updated: August 28. 2013 11:53AM - 118 Views

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This week, Congress has a choice: allow damaging across-the-board budget cuts, or work in a bipartisan way to achieve a balanced compromise that makes smarter, targeted spending cuts.

As the hours tick toward todayís deadline for the automatic sequester cuts, partisan political games are still drowning out common sense, compromise solutions. Meanwhile, federal agencies are bracing for indiscriminate furloughs and program cuts that would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.

Cutting spending with a meat cleaver in this economy just doesnít make sense. Thatís why Iím calling on my colleagues to cut the deficit in ways that do make sense, with ideas that have bipartisan support and can actually pass.

One of the first things we should look to cut is the billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts in the direct payment agriculture subsidy program.

Direct payments are subsidies paid every year to farmers, regardless of farming conditions, including in good times of high commodity prices. In many cases, theyíre paid to farmers for crops theyíre not even growing. Sometimes theyíre even paid to non-farmers.

The Missouri farmers Iíve talk to donít want or need this handout ó these subsidies just canít be justified. Theyíre a striking example of government waste that we cannot afford in fiscally constrained times. And what our farmers really need is a Farm Bill that protects them when disaster strikes, like the devastating drought we experienced just last summer.

Thatís why I introduced bipartisan legislation last week, along with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would finally end the direct payment program, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing the deficit.

Weíve seen strong bipartisan support for eliminating direct payments for years, and last year, the Senate voted overwhelmingly with support from both parties for a Farm Bill renewal that would have eliminated these subsidies. Virtually every major agriculture industry leader, and farmers and ranchers across our country, supported the Senate Farm Bill. Unfortunately, the U.S. House refused to act, letting this legislation die, and so direct payment subsidies live on.

With real-life consequences just hours away, thereís no reason we canít take this commonsense step and eliminate $28.5 billion in waste.

It makes no sense to kick hundreds of thousands of children off of Head Start, or lay off teachers, so that we can continue spending billions on a direct payment program that even agriculture industry leaders refuse to defend.

Congress has to decide: protect our economy, keep Americans from losing their jobs and reduce the deficit ó or continue a farm subsidy program both parties agree should end.

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