Grassley Statement on Proposed Changes to "Actively Engaged" Provision of the 2014 Farm Bill
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa made the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed changes to the “actively engaged” provision of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“The rule proposed by USDA today regarding who can qualify as ‘actively engaged’ in farming to make them eligible for farm subsidies is not as stringent as the Farm Bill amendment I authored that was approved by majority votes in both bodies of Congress.
“This rule is however a small step in the right direction.
“The farm bill conference committee exempted family farms from being affected by the new rulemaking, which on its face appears to be a legitimate action. That is until you see how some family farms operate. As the GAO report from September 2013 pointed out, there are cases where family members living in South Florida have drawn farm subsidies for an operation under the ‘active personal management only’ designation for a farm operation located in the Midwest.
“I took up this fight because ten percent of farms collect seventy-five percent of the subsidies. That uneven distribution means large farms are getting most of the benefits from farm programs. Compounded over the years, that unequal distribution of payments has resulted in high land prices driven by large, well- established farmers and acts as a barrier to entry for young and beginning farmers.
“The last farm bill process proved how hard finding support for farm programs has become in Congress. The farm safety net plays an important part in making sure small and medium-sized farms can withstand the highs and lows of farming. But, with the median income in America at around $52,000 per year, potentially paying more than a million dollars over the life of a farm bill to couples who aren’t even farming, doesn’t meet the common-sense test. We need to have programs that are defensible to the American taxpayer and do not put young and beginning farmers at a disadvantage. I’ll be looking at ways to continue to improve the definition of ‘actively engaged’ until I’m satisfied farm subsidies are only going to people who are actually farming or qualify by owning land which is already allowed under current law.”