Last weekend, lead Farm Bill negotiators – the two chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees - rejected bipartisan farm subsidy reform included in farm bills passed in both House and Senate. This eleventh hour, backroom deal would allow virtually unlimited farm program payments to the nation’s largest and wealthiest mega-farms to continue unabated.
The deal will result in mega-farms continuing to drive up land costs, drive their smaller neighbors out of business and shut beginning farmers out of the land market. Instead of a $50,000 annual limit on farm program payments (doubled for married couples), the negotiators wrote in a $125,000 limit (again, doubled for married couples). Even more appallingly, instead of adopting the House and Senate-passed provisions closing loopholes that allow mega-farms to collect many multiples of the normal payment limits, they would punt any decision about loopholes to the Obama administration.
Rural and small town America deserve better than this. We urge Conference Committee members to reject this maneuver and retain the farm subsidy reforms that Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) fought and won bipartisan majority support for in both the House and Senate.
And we remind President Obama and Secretary Vilsack of then-Senator Obama’s promise in his 2007 rural platform that he would utilize USDA authority to close these very loopholes. If Congress punts this authority to USDA again, then the White House should fulfill their promise and use that authority and use it well.
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