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Has Reagan PIKed the right recipients for federal crop surpluses? That's what some in Congress are wondering. The payment-in-kind program is designed to help the battered farm sector: In exchange for planting fewer acres of grain and cotton, they'll get government-surplus bushels of grain and bales of cotton. Up to 90 percent of eligible farmers may sign up for the program before the March 11 deadline. Most farm groups support PIK. But some also say that PIK will be the most expensive farm program the US has ever had. White House officials still paint PIK as a money saver. But PIK will reap its short-term gains by ignoring the long-term cost of giving away surpluses originally intended for eventual sale. To some congressmen, any federal giveaway program at a time of high unemployment should go to the poor.

Instead, they say, the administration is cutting federal food stamp, school lunch, and other nutrition programs while touting a PIK program that will pay the largest benefits to the nation's largest and wealthiest farmers.m

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