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Agriculture continues to be important for the rural economy in the 21st century. However, the number of farms continues its long-term decline and, despite increased reliance on off-farm sources of income, many farm households have incomes below the poverty level. There are many ways to provide support to the agricultural sector. This article examines four scenarios for government assistance to agriculture drawing on Federal programs that assist low- and middle- income households and that are based on the concept of ensuring some minimum standard of living. Only one scenario would generate lower costs than the current direct government payments to farms, but the distribution of total program benefits using any of the safety net scenarios would change dramatically by type of farm and region.


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