USDA abandons Farm Payment Limit Reform - Center for Rural Affairs rebukes USDA “actively engaged” proposal

Release Date: 



Traci Bruckner,, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1016
or John Crabtree,, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1010

Lyons, Nebraska - Today USDA issued their proposed rule to define what it means to be “actively engaged in farming,” and therefore eligible to receive federal farm payments.

“The purpose of revising the actively engaged definition was to make farm payment limits more effective,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. “USDA is, however, clearly more interested in defending the interests of mega-farms by preserving loose definitions that will continue to allow the nation’s largest farms to avoid meaningful payment limits.”

“This is not reform,” added Bruckner. “In 2007, while campaigning in Iowa for his first election, President Obama promised to close these loopholes, and so did Vice President Biden. But when given yet another opportunity to fulfill that promise, the White House and Secretary Vilsack took a pass, again.”
“The lack of effective payment limitations has resulted in federal farm programs financing farm consolidation and the elimination of many mid-size family farms….Barack Obama and Joe Biden will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations.  They will take immediate action to close the loophole by proposing regulations to limit payments to active farmers who work the land….Every President since Ronald Reagan has had the authority to close this loophole without additional action by Congress, but has failed to act." President Barack Obama, writing as a candidate for President in his rural platform - Obama-Biden: Real Leadership For Rural America
According to Bruckner, Secretary Vilsack has said since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill that the bill ties his hands and he can not apply any new rule to farms structured solely of family members.
“We have disagreed with that premise from day one, and this rule does nothing more than say the largest and wealthiest farms structured solely of family members are not subject to this new rule or any payment limitation,” argued Bruckner.
Most of the few farms this rule would impact, those structured as non-family member operations, will surely work with an attorney to reorganize their operations to be structured solely of family members to evade any payment limitations, Bruckner concluded.