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I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
2004 was a good year for American farmers. Total farm earnings were estimated at 74,000 million dollars for the year. That means the average farm income was about 71,000 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 39 percent of farmers accepted some kind of aid, or subsidy, in 2003.
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 2004. That act ends price supports for tobacco farmers by offering them payments for up to 10 years.
Reports say the total amount of farm aid paid last year is estimated at 15,700 million dollars.
An organization called the Environmental Working Group keeps information on all farm subsidies paid by the government. The group examined subsidies between 1995 and 2003.
It says ten percent of farms received 72 percent of government subsidies during that 9-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.
subsidy: monetary assistance granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest（补助金，政府津贴）