U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation that would place a hard cap on the amount of farm payments an individual farmer can receive in a year and close long-abused and well-documented loopholes in farm payment programs. Brown's bill, also sponsored by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Mike Enzi (R-WY), mirrors language that was included in the Senate-passed Farm, Food and Jobs Act--also known as the farm bill--in 2012.
"For years we've seen big farms get bigger while small and mid-sized family farmers get squeezed," Brown said. "Too often farm program payments have gone to producers who do not need the support-- and sometimes to people who are not involved in farming. The provisions in the bill introduced today mirror those in the farm bill the Senate passed in 2012 and are common sense solutions designed to ensure assistance is directed to those who are working farmers."
The Farm Program Integrity Act of 2013 (S. 281) would establish a hard cap of $50,000 for an individual on all commodity program benefits, except those associated with the marketing loan program (loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains), which would be capped at $75,000 per individual--the combined limit would be $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples. The $50,000 cap would apply to whatever type of program is developed as part of the new farm bill.
The legislation also includes a provision to begin closing the loopholes that allow people who aren't involved in farming to collect farm payments. The provision prevents non-farmers from being able to use the management loophole in current law. Currently, off-farm managers can receive farm program payments even though they are not "actively engaged" in the day-to-day operations of farming. Brown's legislation would close this loophole by clearly defining the scope of who qualifies as "actively engaged" and allowing only one off-farm manager. Landowners who rent land to an actively-engaged producer remain exempt from the "actively engaged" rules if their payments are proportionate to their risk in the crop produced. This provision will help the U.S. Department of Agriculture crack down on the general partnerships that have multiple non-farmers trying to qualify for farm payments by exploiting the management loophole.
Brown cosponsored similar legislation in the 112th Congress, the Rural America Preservation Act and supported efforts to lower payment limitations in the 2008 farm bill. Brown has spearheaded other efforts to reform the farm safety net including a provision included in the Senate-passed 2012 farm bill that would save taxpayers $23 billion by retooling the farm safety net to end "direct payments" in favor of a more market-oriented system that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields.