Agribusiness
Senator Grassley, Senator Johnson propose reform payment limits for Federal Farm Programs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:37

Center for Rural Affairs applauds effort to close loopholes and cap payments

 

Lyons, Nebraska - Today, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced legislation designed to tighten payment limits on federal farm commodity programs and close loopholes mega-farms use to evade limits, while ensuring small and mid-size family farmers have the kind of support farm programs were designed to deliver.

“This legislation represents the most important step congress can take to strengthen family farms - limit the subsidies that mega-farms use to drive smaller operations out of business,” said Brian Depew, Acting Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs.


“The Grassley-Johnson bill includes measures to close the loopholes in farm payment limitations that others in Washington know how to close but won't, thanks to the political clout of mega-farms,” Depew added.

In commenting the introduction of the bill, Senator Grassley stated, “When seventy percent of farm payments go to only ten percent of farmers, there’s something wrong. It’s time to change that. A safe, stable and affordable food supply is essential to social cohesion and a strong safety-net geared toward small and medium-sized farmers is an important part of making that happen.”

Senator Johnson echoed that rationale, saying, “I have long believed that we must target our farm programs to the small and medium-sized family farmers that are the backbone of our rural economy. Senator Grassley and I acknowledge that the structure of the safety net is likely to change during the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization process, and so we are introducing this bill to ensure that payment limits apply to the new structure.”

According to Depew, the new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill has a hard cap on marketing loan gains of $75,000 ($150,000 for a couple). The remainder of the payment limit would be a cap on the total amount a farmer can receive in safety-net payments in general.  For instance, if the Congress were to adopt a shallow loss program, the Grassley-Johnson bill would set a limit of $50,000 ($100,000 for a couple) that a farmer could receive.

Additionally, the bill closes loopholes that allow people with ties to farmland whose management consists of little more than an occasional phone call. The bill sets a measurable standard for someone to qualify as actively engaged in farming by providing management for the operation, and the bill provides an exception for farming operations where there is only one manager of the farm. This exception should help the Department of Agriculture administer the standard.

"The bill would tighten rules that are supposed to limit payments to active farmers who work the land and their landlords. Current law is weak. Investors who participate in one or two conference calls are considered active farmers, allowing mega-farms to get around payment limitations by claiming uninvolved investors as partners," explained Depew.

“The farm safety net was designed to help family farmers but it has increasingly led to a windfall for owners of our nation’s largest farms. Congress should act to close the loopholes and better target payments to our small and mid-sized family farmers. This legislation represents our best chance to move forward with reforms as consideration of the farm bill continues,” said Johnson.

 
New Payment Limits Legislation for Farm Bill Discussion PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:21

Grassley, Johnson Push for Legitimate Payment Limits in Upcoming Farm Bill Discussions

Senators Introduce New Legislation to Place Hard Caps and Close Loopholes

 

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Tim Johnson today are introducing legislation that would place a hard cap on the farm payments an individual farmer could receive in a year and would close long-abused and well-documented loopholes in the farm payment program.

 

The new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill sets a hard cap for farm payments of $250,000 per married couple, and closes loopholes that allow non-farmers to qualify for federal farm payments.

 

The senators had introduced similar legislation earlier this Congress, but wanted to be sure the legislative text would accommodate any type of safety-net program adopted in a new farm and nutrition bill.  This is particularly important in light of the growing prospect that direct payments are unlikely to be included in a farm and nutrition bill.

 

“A strong safety net is critical to ensuring a safe and affordable food supply.  In order to maintain that safety net, we can’t have the mentality of the past where the government looked the other way and allowed people with no connection to the farm to take farm payments,” Grassley said.  “It’s unacceptable that small- and medium-sized farmers get so little of the very program that was created to help them.”

 

“The farm safety net was designed to help family farmers but it has increasingly led to a windfall for owners of our nation’s largest farms. Congress should act to close the loopholes and better target payments to our small and mid-sized family farmers. This legislation represents our best chance to move forward with reforms as consideration of the farm bill continues,” said Johnson.

 

Specifically, the new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill has a hard cap on marketing loan gains of $75,000 ($150,000 for a couple).   The remainder of the payment limit would be a cap on the total amount a farmer can receive in safety-net payments in general.  For instance, if the Congress were to adopt a shallow loss program, the Grassley-Johnson bill would set a limit of $50,000 ($100,000 for a couple) that a farmer could receive.

 

In addition, the bill closes loopholes that allow people with ties to the farmland that consist of a conference call and nothing else.  The bill sets a measurable standard for someone to qualify as actively engaged in farming by providing management for the operation, and the bill provides an exception for farming operations where there is only one manager of the farm.  This exception should help the Department of Agriculture administer the standard.

 

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley’s statement submitted for the Congressional Record upon introduction of the bill today.

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

The Rural America Preservation Act of 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

Mr. President, today I am introducing the Rural America Preservation Act of 2012.  I appreciate Senators Johnson of South Dakota, Enzi, Brown of Ohio, Gillibrand, and Nelson of Nebraska for joining on this bill, and in this effort.

 

As the Senate Agriculture Committee continues working on the next farm bill, one thing seems to be clear.  The Title I safety-net is going to look quite different than current programs.

 

It appears the direct payment program may be done away with entirely.  Some of my colleagues and agriculture groups have proposed a variety of new ideas as possible replacements to the current commodity title.

 

No matter what commodity program we create, my bill sets the marker on payment limitations.  I introduced a similar payment limits bill last year, but this bill should better address whatever type of safety-net program we adopt going forward.

 

The premise remains the same.  We need firm payment limit.  And we need to close loopholes.  I support having a safety-net for farmers.  This nation enjoys a safe and abundant food supply.  Certainly a lot of that can be attributed to the ingenuity and hard-work of the American farmer.  But the farm safety-net helps small and medium-size farmers get through tough times that are out of their control.

 

We need an effective safety-net to assist farmers.  But equally important is for Congress to develop a defensible safety-net.  I will continue to work with my Agriculture Committee colleagues to figure out what type of program will be most effective.

 

We already know the steps that need to be taken to make it more defensible.  Defensible means setting firm caps on the farm payments any one farmer can receive.  The current approach does not have any overall cap.

 

There’s nothing wrong with farmers growing their operations.  But big farmers shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to get even bigger.  When the largest 10% of farmers receive 70% of farm payments, something is wrong.   There comes a point where some farms reach levels that allow them to weather the tough financial times on their own.  Smaller farms do not have the same luxury, but they play a pivotal role in producing this nation’s food.

 

If you want to witness how farm payments to big farmers create a barrier for small and beginning farmers, look at land prices.

 

The current system puts upward pressure on land prices making it more difficult for small and beginning farmers to buy ground.  This is not unique to Iowa.  This upward pressure on land prices is occurring in many other states.

 

This bill proposes an overall cap of $250,000 for a married couple.  In my state, many people would say this is still too high.  But I recognize that agriculture can look different around the country, and so this is a compromise.  Strong payment limits will ensure farm payments are helping those who payments were originally created for, the small and medium-size farmers.

 

Having an overall cap is more defensible from a federal budget stand point as well.  This nation needs to make tough decisions regarding all government programs.  And we need to find savings across the board.  Setting strict caps on all commodity programs should be a no-brainer as we look to find savings and increase accountability in farm programs.

 

Having a defensible safety-net also means closing loopholes in the current law.  For all the rhetoric that comes out of Washington D.C. about eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse, making sure non-farmers don’t game the system is a common sense step to take.

 

It’s simple, if you are not a farmer, you shouldn’t get a farm payment.  The bill I introduced last year, and this bill, has language that closes the loopholes.

 

After I introduced the bill last year, we received some questions regarding the language from two camps of people.  The first camp of people I would say were critical because they don’t want the loopholes closed.  They would have us turn a blind eye to the fact people game the system.  They would have us turn a blind eye to the fact we have nonfarmers who claim to help “manage” the farm by participating in one or two conference calls a year.  To those people, I cannot satisfy your concerns. I will not turn a blind eye to abuses.  These are loopholes that need to be closed.

 

To the other camp of people, who have provided constructive feedback, I would say, we have listened.  The revisions we made addressed the issues raised.  We have improved the language closing the loopholes.  This bill provides a tangible, workable, and fair approach.  Closing these loopholes is the right thing to do for the American taxpayer.  And it’s the right thing to do for the American farmer.

 

Hard caps on farm payments and closing loopholes should be supported by anyone who wants an effective and defensible farm safety-net.

 

As the Senate Agriculture Committee heads toward a mark-up of the Farm Bill, I invite my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

 

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A Farm Bill for the Future PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Thursday, 22 March 2012 12:35

By John Crabtree, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Center for Rural Affairs

House and Senate Agriculture Committees are already holding hearings on writing a new farm bill. However, past farm bills demonstrate that we must demand more of Congress, we must demand a farm bill that invests in the future of rural communities and the next generation of family farmers and ranchers.

On March 19th the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Center for Rural Affairs released a 2012 Farm Bill policy platform entitled Farming for the Future, A Sustainable Agriculture Agenda for the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.

It includes proposals to strengthen family farming and ranching, and assist beginning farmers and ranchers. These policies, if advanced, will help smaller producers tap into high-value, niche markets; provide access to land and capital for the next generation of farmers and ranchers; level the playing field by capping subsidies to mega-farms and invest in real family farmers and ranchers.

The entire platform spans nearly every section of the farm bill and constitutes a comprehensive approach to reforming federal farm and food policies that will create jobs and economic growth, drive innovation for farm and food entrepreneurs, enhance conservation, protect our natural resources and invest in the future of rural America.

We cannot continue to follow the failed farm policies of the past. Rural America wants, needs and deserves a better farm bill, one that creates a future for America’s rural places and the people that live there. Farming for the Future contains a best first step at making reform a reality.

 
Growing the Next Farm and Ranch Generation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Thursday, 22 March 2012 12:29

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Releases its 2012 Farm Bill Platform


Lyons, NE - Today, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition released its comprehensive 2012 Farm Bill policy platform, Farming for the Future: A Sustainable Agriculture Agenda for the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.  The Center for Rural Affairs is a represented member of NSAC, and played an integral role in developing this platform.

“This platform includes a comprehensive set of farm bill proposals that will strengthen family farming and ranching systems, especially beginning farmers and ranchers,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs and member of the Coalition’s Coordinating Council. “These policies, if advanced, will help farmers and ranchers conserve soil and water, tap into high-value, niche markets; provide access to land and capital for the next generation of farmers and ranchers; level the playing field by capping subsidies to mega-farms and invest the savings in real family farmers and ranchers.”

The last several Agriculture Censuses demonstrated large drops in the number of younger farmers involved in farming or ranching as their primary occupation. According to Bruckner, the revitalization of rural America depends, in large part, on reversing that trend.

“The Congressional debate over these issues is underway, with both Senate and House Agriculture Committees currently holding hearings aimed at writing a new farm bill,” added Bruckner. “Past farm bills and the recent recession demonstrate the need for a farm bill that truly reforms farm programs and invests in creating real opportunities for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.”

Farming for the Future spans nearly every title in the farm bill and reflects a comprehensive approach to farm policy reform that will –

  • Create jobs and spur economic growth through food and farms.

  • Invest in the future of American agriculture.

  • Enhance our natural resources and improve agricultural productivity.

  • Drive innovation for tomorrow’s farmers and food entrepreneurs.

  • Make healthy food widely available today and for generations to come.


The platform document explains that the policy proposals therein are the culmination of over two years of policy work with a broad, diverse coalition of over 90 grassroots organizations from across the country.  And it reflects the real, urgent needs of farmers, ranchers, and food entrepreneurs across the country.

Of particular focus of the Center for Rural Affairs in this platform are the various provisions of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, a cross-cutting initiative aimed at helping the next generation of farmers and ranchers enter into agriculture.

During the first week of March, a cadre of young farmers, ranchers and military veterans traveled to Washington, DC to participate in a nationwide fly-in and grassroots lobbying effort spearheaded by the Center for Rural Affairs and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Justin Doer, a farmer and military veteran from Plainview Nebraska was one of  the young farmers and ranchers lobbying in Washington and talking to lawmakers and USDA about the importance of programs that support the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“We face a lot of barriers as beginning farmers as far as access to land and credit and barriers in crop insurance,” said Doer. “As a beginning farmer one way of getting a start is through niche markets and raising non-conventional crops, but it’s hard to gain access to crop insurance for that... that problem should be addressed.”

According to Doer, the Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Opportunity Act - a key element of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Farm Bill Platform - helps break down many of the barriers beginning farmers and ranchers face, including access to land and credit and barriers in obtaining crop insurance.

“And this legislation would include a provision that would assist younger farmers and ranchers that work with older producers in acquiring land, much as the Center for Rural Affairs’ Land Link program,” added Doer.

The platform can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/2012fbplatform.

 
Comprehensive BSE Rule Released PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 March 2012 12:16

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley made the following statement after the Office of Management and Budget cleared the comprehensive BSE rule and the Department of Agriculture released the rule for public comment.

Grassley, along with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, led a bipartisan group of senators pressing the administration to issue the comprehensive BSE rule.  The rule had been in the works for several years, but was stalled within the Office of Management and Budget.  The letter to the Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients and Animal Plant Health and Inspection Services Administrator, Dr. Gregory Parham, can be found here.

"Beef producers have been waiting years for the Department of Agriculture to issue the BSE comprehensive rule.  Without the rule, our trade negotiators face real challenges when they are pushing other countries to adopt science-based approaches to beef imports.  Just as we got close to having this rule issued, OMB held it up for reasons that still aren't clear.  It looks like we finally shook the rule loose after our bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Acting Director Zients pressing him to quickly act.  I will continue to follow the progress of this rule as it moves through the public comment process, and I look forward to seeing new openings for our beef markets.”

 
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