Grassley/Feingold payment limits bill focuses on helping 'family farmers'

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Aug. 4 – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation Wednesday to close loopholes that they say “are being used to game the farm payment system.” They aim instead to “target payments to actively engaged farmers who need assistance getting over the bumps that come with ensuring a safe and abundant food supply.”

The Grassley/Feingold bill would set a limit of $250,000 for farm payments in an attempt to better target farm program payments to family farmers. The legislation is designed to save the federal treasury more than $1 billion over 10 years.

Rural America can’t continue to withstand the pressure that unlimited payments create. The farm program was never intended to help big farmers get bigger, instead it was created to help those who couldn’t withstand the political whims of Washington or the fierce reckonings of Mother Nature,” Grassley said. “When 10 percent of the nation’s farmers receive more than 70 percent of the payments, it erodes public confidence in federal farm programs, and this legislation is a way to stop that trend from growing.”

For too long large agribusinesses and non-farmers have gamed the limits on farm subsidy programs, taking limited and critical resources better used to support our family farmers who are facing numerous challenges in the current economic climate,” Feingold said. “I have enjoyed working with Senator Grassley to ensure fair competition and contract terms for our farmers and I am pleased to collaborate with him again on this important issue for farmers and taxpayers. Our legislation is a common sense, bipartisan approach to support Wisconsin family farms, while saving taxpayer dollars.”

Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook welcomed the bill, explaining “We applaud the Senators for introducing this legislation. As we've said many times, the single most effective thing Congress could do to strengthen family sized farms is to stop subsidizing mega-farms to drive their smaller neighbors out of business. By placing effective caps on farm program payments and preventing mega-farms from gaming the system, this legislation would accomplish that crucial end.”

Specifically, the bill caps direct payments at $40,000; counter-cyclical payments at $60,000; and marketing loan gains (including forfeitures), loan deficiency payments, and commodity certificates at $150,000. It also closes loopholes that people can use to maximize their take from the federal government. The bill would create a new standard for the Department of Agriculture to determine whether individuals qualify as “actively engaged” in farming operations.

To read a summary of the Grassley/Feingold bill, go to:

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