Grassley: The crusade for the 'actively engaged' rule continues

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2015 - Whether you agree or disagree with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, you always know where he stands. And for about a decade, he has consistently crusaded for “actively engaged” limits on the amount of money large entities can receive from federal farm programs in an effort to maintain the “integrity” of the programs.

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Grassley says he feels that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is “sympathetic” to his case, but he “can only do so much” given language written in the 2014 Farm Bill. Grassley recently made his case for reform to Howard Shelanski, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management of Budget, where the proposed rule from USDA has been residing for at least several weeks.

“I wanted to give Mr. Shelanski background about the eight ways that a person can qualify in a vague way for subsidies under the “active management” loophole, even after enactment of the farm bill,” Grassley told Agri-Pulse Tuesday. These ways include allowing people to qualify based upon “supervision of activities necessary in the farming operations” and “any other management function reasonably necessary to conduct the farming operation.”

In September 2013, a report by the Government Accountability Office said the criteria used for determining eligibility under active personal management was too vague to be enforced by the county Farm Service Agency.  On top of that, the USDA has always had the ability to close these loopholes as they are the result of the administration's own ruling, Grassley added.

The Iowa Republican said that the USDA, over time and under a lot of different secretaries of agriculture, “could have done something about this but they weren't able to. So we're trying to show the USDA and OMB how to do it so non-farmers don't get farm payments.”

But what about southerners who are staunch defenders of the existing regulations, reporters asked Grassley? “I'd be totally surprised if they aren't working just as hard as I am, and in that part they are working to maintain the status quo.  They don't want any changes.”

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