"Don't Touch Stamp" on Payment Limits Reform in Farm and Food Bill Conference Negotiations

Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry today made the following statements before the first official meeting of the farm and food bill conference committee later today.  Grassley and Fortenberry authored provisions in the Senate and House bills to establish a farm payment cap of $250,000.  The Senate and House bills also tighten loopholes that have allowed some non-farmers to game the system.  In addition, the Government Accountability Office recently released a report outlining many of the current shortcomings of the eligibility rules for farm programs.  The report also says that the legislative language in the Senate and House passed farm bills would be an appropriate fix to the agency’s findings.    

Grassley and Fortenberry maintain that the farm payment provisions are nearly identical in the two bills, and should not be up for negotiation.  

Grassley comment:

“Our reform is common-sense.  Not only does it end some of the most egregious abuses of the farm program and make sure that the farm program payments are going to those who need them most, but it saves money.  It’s a win-win for everybody.   When 22 people are getting farm payments for the same farm, and 70 percent of the farm payments go to 10 percent of the biggest farms, we’ve got a problem.  Some members of the conference committee have already made clear of their intention to remove the reforms.  By removing the payment limits and the provisions to close loopholes, these members are only making the safety net more susceptible to criticism and vulnerable to elimination.  The safety net is important to a safe and affordable food supply for the country, and it would be short-sighted to allow such a parochial mindset to undermine an important and necessary policy.”   

Fortenberry comment:

“After many years of discussion, farm payment limitations reform finally has a chance to become law.  More robust payment limits help farm supports reach intended recipients and close loopholes. In this time of tight budgets, the need for this type of fair reform is even greater. With the opportunity for new farm policy under negotiation between the House and Senate, payment limits should remain a key piece of the overall package. It is my hope that this important provision will carry forward into the final Farm Bill.”

Specifics of the payment limits provisions:

•    The bills 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 and food bill.

•    The bills would define clearly the scope of people who are able to qualify as actively engaged by only providing management for the farming operation.  The bill will allow one off-farm manager, but only one.  Landowners who share rent land to an actively-engaged producer remain exempt from the “actively engaged” rules provided their payments are commensurate to their risk in the crop produced.