• • • Grassley’s Farm Bill Challenge: Limit Subsidies to Actual Farmers
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to tighten down access to U.S. farm subsidies, a lightning-rod issue as Congress tries to update ag and public nutrition programs this year. “Why can’t we require farmers who collect huge sums of money from the government to actually work on the farm?” said Grassley, arguing for a “hard” cap of $125,000 per person in annual payments and restricting payments to farmers, their spouses, and one manager per farm, regardless of size.
“I do not believe in unlimited subsidies, like are in the House farm bill,” said the senator during a speech at the think tank Heritage Foundation. The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to vote on its version of the farm bill. It does not address farm subsidy limits beyond a provision to limit payments to people with less than $700,000 adjusted gross income. The limit now is $900,000 AGI annually and is doubled for a married couple. Grassley said he will offer his payment limit amendment at the committee meeting.
Lawmakers have tussled over so-called payment limits for decades. Large operators collect the lion’s share of subsidies because the payments are based on volume of production. If these large farms also have many people declared as “managers,” multiple people can claim a payment in the operation. Grassley, however, believes the payments should be directed to family-size operations. Defenders say crop subsidies are a small part of revenue for farmers and assure production of cotton, grains, and soybeans.