Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter to Farm Bill Conferees on Payment Limit Amendment

Sep 26, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, along with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota, urging them to maintain the payment limit provisions passed by the Senate in the final 2018 Farm Bill.

“The Farm Bill is an $860 billion spending bill that impacts every single American. While there are significant differences between the House and Senate bills, there is one area where overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral agreement exists – allowing only one additional manager per farm entity to be eligible for $125,000 in farm subsidies of $250,000 if the manager is married,” the lawmakers wrote. “We do not believe the farm safety net should provide unlimited payments to farmers year after year.”

The 2018 Farm Bill is currently being debated by a bicameral Conference Committee. Language in the Senate’s Farm Bill more closely aligns with the needs of small and family farmers, and curtails the abuse of certain subsidy payments. The House bill lifted payment limits, allowing for more corruption and misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Grassley has been an outspoken advocate for real and enforceable limits for farm subsidies for years. Grassley’s payment limitation amendment, which focuses assistance to those who truly need help, passed both the House and Senate during the 2014 Farm Bill debate but was killed in the Conference Committee. 

The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2018.

You can view the letter here or below.

Dear Chairman Roberts, Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson and Ranking Member Stabenow:

The Farm Bill is an $860 billion spending bill that impacts every single American. While there are significant differences between the House and Senate bills, there is one area where overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral agreement exists – allowing only one additional manager per farm entity to be eligible for $125,000 in farm subsidies of $250,000 if the manager is married.

We do not believe the farm safety net should provide unlimited payments to farmers year after year. Unfortunately, current law also allows for most farmers who organize their farms as general partnerships or joint ventures to designate an unlimited number of farm managers for the purposes of collecting additional farm subsidies. The impact of this loophole is that large farms crowd out young and beginning farmers by increasing the price of land and cash rent. The fact that few young people are starting farms and staying in rural America is not surprising considering they have to compete with established farmers who have millions in equity and access to unlimited farm subsidies.

We urge you to maintain Sections 1704, 1705, and 1706 of the Senate passed Farm Bill in the final conference agreement. Sections 1704 and 1705 reduce abuses related to what it means to be “actively engaged” in farming. Section 1705 still allows any farmer to get up to $500,000 per year in subsidies from taxpayers. Additionally, Section 1706 of the Senate Farm Bill sets the income eligibility threshold for farm subsidies at no more than $700,000 per individual or $1.4 million per married couple. In combination, these modest reforms will help ensure that farm subsidies are better targeted to real farmers.

The House Farm Bill significantly expands eligibility of farm subsidies by eliminating the current means test altogether and making extended family members eligible to collect farm subsidies. With our national debt at $21.3 trillion, we cannot afford to give cousins, nieces, and nephews $125,000 in farm subsidies when they may have nothing to do with the farm. We strongly urge you to reject sections 1603 and 1604 of HR. 2. A Congress committed to fiscal restraint should not extend farm payments to distant relatives or make billionaires like Charles Schwab, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates eligible for farm payments.

To ensure that farm subsidies are going to the small farmers they were intended for, we must close the actively engaged loophole that enables large farms to collect multiples of the $125,000 subsidy limit. As the Government Accountability Office recently found, too many “farm managers” who do not work on the farm are the beneficiaries of these programs. Many of these “farm managers” live in America’s largest cities.

As you finalize the 2018 Farm Bill, we urge you to support these common sense reforms that limit farm payments to farmers who work on farms and that tighten an existing means test so that billionaires are not receiving farm subsidies.

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