PRAIRIE CITY, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says subsidies to farmers must be on the table as the government tries to reduce spending, but he cautions against cutting too deep.

Vilsack, who was touring a farm near Prairie City on Tuesday, says direct payments to farmers are hard to justify during tough economic times.

The payments are made to farmers no matter how much they grow or what happens to crop prices.

Vilsack says everything must be considered, but he warns against reductions that would limit economic growth.

As part of his plan for reducing the deficit, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has proposed cutting $30 billion over 10 years from the direct payment program and by giving smaller subsidies to crop insurance.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.