WISCONSINREPORT.COM (12/13/07) - U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have been attempting to add an amendment to the farm bill, now before the Senate, that would put a hard cap on federal farm program payments and ensure that only farmers get payments. Senator Grassley says the ammendment would help allow young people to get into farming and lessen the dependence of federal subsidies, and, begin to restore public respectability for the federal farm program by targeting this assistance to those who need it.
“We have a federal farm program to help family farmers make it through tough times,” Dorgan said. “It was not created to send multi-million dollar payments to giant corporate farms, or payments to people who haven’t been near a farm in decades."
"Our amendment puts a reasonable cap on payments to any one farm, and requires that those receiving farm program payments be actively involved in farming," Senator Dorgan said.
"The farm bill before the Senate is a good one, but our amendment will make it better by returning its focus to where that focus needs to be – helping family farmers,” Dorgan explained.
"This amendment hits right where our farm program unfairly tilts the lion’s share of farm payments to a fraction of the nation’s biggest farmers," Senator Grassley said. "It will help allow young people to get into farming and lessen the dependence of federal subsidies."
"We’ll also begin to restore public respectability for the federal farm program by targeting this assistance to those who need it,” Grassley asserted.
The Dorgan-Grassley amendment preserves the farm safety net while putting a hard cap on all three program direct payments, countercyclical and average crop revenue payments, and marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments.
A similar amendment passed the Senate during the 2002 farm bill debate. The language was ultimately taken out of the bill during conference committee negotiations on the 2002 farm bill.
Specifically, the amendment would do the following:
- Set a hard, enforceable cap of $250,000 for payments received by any one individual on an annual basis.
- Limit the amount that farms could receive under specific programs to $40,000 for direct and fixed payments, $60,000 for counter-cyclical and average crop revenue payments, and $150,000 for marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments.
- Close the loopholes that allow mega farms to receive many multiple times the soft, unenforceable current nominal cap of $360,000.
- Require individuals to be actively engaged in farming to receive payments, adopting recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office and the USDA Payment Limitations Commission established by the last farm bill.
The $1.1 billion in savings generated by this amendment will be reinvested to aid young beginning farmers trying to break in to the agriculture industry, conservation programs that preserve land and water resources, and nutrition programs that help feed seniors, children and others in need.