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AGRICULTURE REPORT - 2004 Good Year for U.S. Farmers

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I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Two thousand four was a good year for American farmers. Total farm earnings were estimated at seventy-four thousand million dollars for the year. That means the average farm income was about seventy-one thousand dollars, or a gain of about three percent from the year before.

However, the growth in earnings depended on the size of the farm. Large farms had increased earnings of six and one-half percent. Smaller farms saw growth in earnings of less than three percent.

Part of American farm income came from the federal government. The Department of Agriculture reports that about thirty-nine percent of farmers accepted some kind of aid, or subsidy, in two thousand three.

An organization called the Commodity Credit Corporation supervises farm aid. The C.C.C. is part of the Agriculture Department's Farm Services Agency.

The C.C.C. seeks to keep crop prices at balanced levels. The agency uses loan programs, direct payments and even buys crops to support prices. It also supervises emergency farm aid and special programs like the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of two thousand four. That act ends price supports for tobacco farmers by offering them payments for up to ten years.

Reports say the total amount of farm aid paid last year is estimated at fifteen thousand seven hundred million dollars.

An organization called the Environmental Working Group keeps information on all farm subsidies paid by the government. The group examined subsidies between nineteen ninety-five and two thousand three.

It says ten percent of farms received seventy-two percent of government subsidies during that nine-year period. The group says big farms that are organized as corporation or partnership businesses receive the most aid. It says the big farms receive more aid, even when they are more profitable than smaller family farms.

Critics say farm subsidies are costly and wasteful. Critics also note that subsidies go only to growers of widely traded crops, like corn, cotton, wheat and soybean.

But many farmers, including ones who only receive a few thousand dollars a year, support the subsidy programs. They say small farming communities in states like Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota would not survive without the aid.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Gwen Outen.

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