"I think the principle behind direct payments when it was established in '96 was sound, but I think now reflecting upon two or three years where there hasn't been any loan programs, target payments, very little counter-cyclical payments made, that it stands out as just a hand out to farmers as opposed to a safety-net approach that was the motive behind direct payments."My memory is that Freedom to Farm was intended to transition farmers to a free market economy, with the payments used as a bridge to the future, not as a safety-net. From a NYTimes summary on Pat Roberts:
Roberts fashioned a Freedom to Farm bill designed to phase out subsidies over seven years. In September 1995 his bill failed in committee when Southern Republicans voted against it. But in November 1995, Roberts persuaded Agriculture conferees to include most of his bill in the 1996 budget reconciliation bill, which Bill Clinton vetoed.