To the Editor:
(Feb. 2013) Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation that would restore integrity and fiscal responsibility to federal farm policy. The Farm Program Integrity Act, which reflects language approved by the United States Senate in 2012, places a hard cap on farm program payments and closes current loopholes to ensure payments go to working farmers.
Due to current program eligibility loopholes, mega-farms and absentee investors can currently receive a virtually unlimited government check through farm programs.
We applaud the senators for reintroducing reform legislation that could put real limits on farm program payments and close loopholes that allow mega-farms to obtain virtually unlimited payments that they use to drive their smaller neighbors out of business. This legislation will help ensure that federal farm program benefits flow to small and mid-sized farms instead of contributing to their demise by subsidizing bigness and farm consolidation.
The bill would allow investors who provide management to receive farm payments, but it would not allow a large farm to receive unlimited subsidies by claiming each investor qualifies it for another set of payments up to the legal limit. This is a reasonable compromise to close loopholes that have plagued farm programs for far too long.
The Center for Rural Affairs supports this legislation and urges the Senate Agriculture Committee to include this in the Farm Bill they move forward this year, as they did last year. We also encourage the House Agriculture Committees to adopt these common-sense reforms, something they failed to do last year.
The House Agriculture Committee kept high payment caps and wide-open loopholes intact in the farm bill that they voted out of Committee last year.
We look forward to working with the House and Senate on writing a fiscally responsible farm bill that invests in rural America’s best future and moving that forward in the five-year farm bill debate this year. The bill introduced yesterday by Senators Grassley, Johnson, Enzi and Brown is an excellent place to start.
Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs