WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment after the Senate passed the farm and nutrition bill. The final vote was 66-27. The bill keeps intact Grassley’s provisions to focus farm payments on small- and medium-sized farmers and close loopholes that allow non-farmers to game the farm program system.
“The bill that cleared the Senate tonight is a step in the right direction. Having responsible payment limits on the commodity program is crucial to the defensibility of the farm safety-net. We need payment caps on our commodity programs, and we need to close loopholes that have allowed non-farmers to game the system. I hope the House takes notice at the reforms in the Senate-passed bill and sees the positive changes we made to the farm payment system.
“And, while the inclusion of my payment limits plan is very reform-minded, the target price program that is included in the final bill will take us back a step. Target prices distort planting decisions, and I hear opposition to it from Iowa farmers all the time. We’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work.
“While I continue to have concerns about the potential impacts of the shallow loss and target price programs created in this farm bill, I would also agree with the overwhelming sentiment from Iowa farmers that they need to have certainty. A five-year farm bill that includes my payment limit reforms, maintains the crop insurance program, and streamlines conservation programs gives that certainty.”
Grassley has long sought reform of the farm payment system. His provisions that were included in the bill are nearly identical to legislation he introduced earlier this year that would place a hard cap on the farm payments an individual farmer can receive in a year and close long-abused and well-documented loopholes in the farm payment program. The legislation would establish a per farm cap of $50,000 on all commodity program benefits, except those associated with the marketing loan program (loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains), which would be capped at $75,000. Thus the combined limit would be $125,000, or, for married couples, $250,000. The $50,000 cap would apply to whatever type of program is developed as part of the new Farm Bill. The bill also closes loopholes that currently allow non-farmers to qualify for federal farm payments and would allow one off-farm manager, but only one.