Act Today: A New Chance to Reform Unlimited Farm Payments

For over a decade we have fought together to strengthen family farming by tightening farm program payment limitations. We usually focus on congress. But now Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has the opportunity to act on his own to close the biggest loopholes and end unlimited payments to the nation’s largest farms.

The USDA is writing new regulations for what it takes to be considered an "active farmer" eligible for farm payments. In recent years, the rules have become so lax that investors who participate in two conference calls per year qualify as active farmers. Each investor in a mega-farm who qualifies gets the operation another set of payments up to the limit.

Will you send a message today to the USDA? Send your comments by email to Dan McGlynn at

Here are some simple points to make in your email to USDA.

  • USDA should write rules that require a person to either work half time on the farm or provide half the labor or half the management on his/her share of the operation to qualify as an "active farmer." This is the most important point.
  • The "actively engaged" loophole is the biggest of them all. Megafarms with investor partners use this loophole to collect unlimited payments.
  • Real actively engaged rules will strengthen family farms and rural communities.
  • Add your own thoughts about why reforming farm programs is important to you and your community.

The active farmer requirement does not apply to landlords, so tightening it will not interfere with crop share leases. But tightening it will prevent very large farms from collecting unlimited farm payments by recruiting rich nonfarm to investors to their operation.

This rule writing process is the first test of the new Obama Administration's commitment to reforming farm programs to make them work for family farms, rather than megafarms. This is a critical time for you to weigh in with a letter or email and make your voice heard.

Thanks for all you do for family farming and ranching and the future of rural America.

Brian Depew
Center for Rural Affairs

P.S. Questions? Comments? Write to

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