Grassley Remarks on the Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill
Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On the Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
I’d like to begin by thanking Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for their hard work in putting together the 2018 Farm Bill. It was a long and difficult process and they negotiated in good faith.
I also want to thank my friend and colleague from Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst, for her dedication to reforming the Conservation Reserve Program, known as CRP. The program’s intent is to reduce land erosion, improve water quality and help wildlife populations. Over the years it has strayed from its intended focus.
Some landowners have been receiving more than $300 per acre to enroll their entire farms in CRP. That puts young and beginning farmers at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, even well-established farmers have had rented land taken away from them because it was enrolled in the program at lucrative rates.
Farmers can’t and shouldn’t have to compete with the government, especially with the current debt our country has. Senator Ernst has been an advocate for these reforms and I applaud her efforts.
Unfortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill did not include another critical reform that would help young and beginning farmers – my payment limitations amendment.
To say I’m disappointed the bill makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers is a severe understatement. Especially when the impact of large farmers being allowed to manipulate the system is that young and beginning farmers face even larger hurdles.
So far, the bill has not won much praise outside of the Washington lobby groups whose members will receive more taxpayer subsidies from a few select changes.
At its core, farm policy should be a limited safety net that helps farmers weather the storm of natural disasters, unpredictable commodity markets and other unforeseen challenges. This bill goes well beyond that.
Today, we have a Farm Bill that is intentionally written to help the largest farmers receive unlimited subsidies from the federal government. There is no other way to characterize what the conference committee has done.
In the last Farm Bill, both bodies of Congress approved a commonsense amendment I offered that would have limited the abuses related to Title 1 subsidies. This time, the House did not even allow debate to occur on my reforms.
The 2014 Conference Committee put in a loophole that exempted ‘family farms,’ which account for approximately 95 percent of farms, from the new rules.
This bill makes their original loophole even larger.
The new Farm Bill will allow nieces and nephews to qualify as part of a family farm without any new requirements that they actually have to work. Despite what some of my colleagues may say, this is not about helping nieces or nephews get into farming. Every person who really farms already qualifies for Title 1 payments by themselves without this new gimmick.
Allowing nieces and nephews to qualify as part of large farm entities merely allows large farmers to get more subsidies. They just need to hire the right lawyer to structure things in a certain way and they can receive unlimited taxpayer subsidies.
For years, the top 10 percent of farmers have received over 70 percent of the subsidies from the government. That’s only one of the many reasons it’s so hard for young and beginning farmers to get started.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve never heard a single young or beginning farmer tell me that the way to help them is to give more money to the largest farmers.
Many farmers are hurting from the downturn in commodity prices. Corn and soybeans have had significant price declines over the past several years. If only all crops were as lucky as cotton with its high prices ensured by the federal government over the last year.
However, market corrections do not justify Congress expanding subsidy loopholes for the wealthy. Especially at a time when our long-term fiscal situation is as bad as it’s ever been.
The last time we passed a Farm Bill, our national debt was $17 trillion. Today it stands at $21.8 trillion and growing.
At some point, Congress needs to get serious about spending. This bill represents an open-ended spigot of taxpayer subsidies in Title 1.
Because of this, I could not vote for this Farm Bill.