Preserving Rural America: Grassley, Feingold seek to reform farm programs

Recently, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation to establish more stringent farm program payment limits and close legal loopholes that render current statutory limits meaningless. The legislation would save the federal treasury more than $1 billion over ten years, conservatively.
The Center for Rural Affairs applauds Senator Grassley and Senator Feingold for introducing this legislation.  The most effective thing Congress could do to strengthen family sized farms is to stop subsidizing mega-farms to drive their smaller neighbors out of business.
The bill caps direct payments at $40,000; counter-cyclical payments at $60,000; and marketing loan gains, loan deficiency payments, and commodity certificates at $150,000 annually.  And the bill improves the standard used by USDA to determine whether farmers are actively engaged in farming.  Current rules allow investors who participate in one or two conference calls to be considered active farmers, allowing mega-farms to evade current limits.
When the largest one percent of farms receives nearly 25 percent of farm program payments, it erodes public confidence in federal farm programs.  Moreover, Senator Feingold correctly points out that large agribusinesses and non-farmers have, for too long, gamed the limits on farm subsidy programs, taking limited and critical resources better used to support our family farmers.
The Senators' legislation is a common-sense, bipartisan reform that supports small and mid-sized family farms, while saving taxpayer dollars, at a time when both common-sense and bipartisanship seem to be rare commodities in Washington, DC.