Farmers already being hammered by low commodity prices and a reduced safety net in the 2014 farm bill may face additional challenges if new legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, gains passage.
Grassley, who calls himself one of the only working family farmers in the U.S. Senate, has introduced the Farm Payment Loophole Elimination Act. The bill would close “a farm subsidy loophole that was intentionally included in the 2014 farm bill,” according to the senator.
“The original actively engaged language that both bodies of Congress passed as part of the 2014 farm bill would have limited the number of ‘non-farming managers’ to one per entity,” Grassley said in a statement released by his office.
“However, conferees denied these reforms put forth by Grassley and overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress, and instead opted for instructions that restricted the Agriculture’s Department’s ability to fix blatant abuses of the farm safety net.”
Since then, USDA has issued new rules that limit the number of non-family-member managers to three who can be actively engaged in a farming operation and receive farm program payments. The actual number depends on the size of the farming entity.
Most modern farming operations of any size have multiple managers because they may be spread over a number of square miles and several counties to achieve the economies of scale required for successful operation.
“The final farm bill language on payment limits was an egregious manipulation of my amendment that passed both chambers,” Grassley said in the statement. “The loophole the conference committee included in the bill left non-farming family members completely outside the scope of the new actively engaged rules USDA finalized in December.”
The Grassley bill strikes language from the 2014 farm bill that allowed for non-farmers, who happen to be family members but aren’t involved in the work or management of the farm or own farm land, to receive farm subsidy payments. If adopted, the change would apply to the 2017 and subsequent crop years.
“The legislation I’ve introduced today will help level the playing field for young farmers and save taxpayers money,” Grassley said. “It’s a real win-win.”