Vilsack Should Actively Engage On Farm Payment Rules

A critical decision being made within USDA will determine whether farm programs work to improve the income of farmers and keep family farming alive.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack must decide whether to tighten the standard for being considered an active farmer eligible for farm payments. The easy path is to keep payments flowing to anyone who invests in a farm and participates in an occasional conference call.

It is an enormous loophole. Mega farms can take ten or twenty times the legal limit on farm payments by recruiting investors in their operation.  Each investor counts as a farmer, qualifying the operation for another set of payments up to the limit.

This mockery of law should concern every American earning an income by working the land.   If mega farms are allowed to continue evading the limit, they will continue using government payments to bid land away from smaller operations. Whenever there is a decent profit in farming, they'll bid their payment into higher cash rents and squeeze the margins right back down.

It takes guts to do the right thing.  If the Secretary closes this loophole, he'll face the wrath of powerful farm and commodity groups and many members of Congress.  That makes this a critical time for each of us to let the Secretary know that they don't speak for us.  And if he stands up for family farms, rural America will stand with him.  You can write Secretary Vilsack at USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W.  Washington, DC 20250.  

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