Who'll Stop the Grain?

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Bob Dylan won't be the only hand laid off from Maggie's farm -- unless the government steps in, which is why Thursday's budget deal included $6 billion in farm aid. For the GOP, agreeing to the bailout meant suspending their quest to slash federal farm subsidies. "Republicans would have been hard-pressed to cut back on government spending to farmers in a year when the agricultural community has been badly hit by the Asian crisis and falling commodity prices," says TIME's senior business reporter Bernard Baumohl. The bad news, however, is that with U.S. agriculture heavily reliant on exports, the situation down on the farm is likely to get worse.

"U.S. agriculture has taken a real beating from the Asian meltdown, losing billions in exports," says Baumohl. "Some farmers are not going to survive the downturn. And those who do are going to have a difficult time in the next couple of years, because it will take at least that long before Asia feels comfortable buying U.S. agricultural exports again." Paging Willie Nelson...