Sen. Charles Grassley raised the bar on tightening rules for being actively engaged in farming by releasing a new Government Accountability Office report showing how extensive some farms use the law and how reluctant USDA is to enforce actively-engaged eligibility.
Grassley co-sponsored proposed changes on payment limits and eligibility for commodity programs in the Senate version of the farm bill now awaiting conference talks. Grassley also argues there should be no need to make changes to the provision coming out of conference talks because the House language adopted by amendment is nearly identical to the Senate bill.
The actively-engaged language in the farm bills spells out who is an active manager on the farm and only allows for one person to fill that role.
Currently, some of the largest farm-payment entities in the country have multiple people listed as actively engaged solely in management without any member listed for labor. In some cases, more than 20 people are listed as managers in a single entity and collecting $25,000 to $29,000 apiece. In some instances, people considered actively engaged in management live five states away and approaching 90 years old.
“The report shows that there is still far too much subterfuge of the actively engaged law. For instance, taxpayers are footing the bill for farm payments to 11 active managers of one farm, who supposedly provide significant management experience, yet perform no labor,” Grassley said. “The loophole has been allowed to stand for too long. It’s time to close it once and for all and put the issue to rest so we can maintain a safety net for the farmers who really need it.”
Moreover, GAO found that some Farm Service Agency offices were not doing compliance checks on active engagement rules.
Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said USDA has reluctantly enforced actively-engaged rules. The GAO has repeatedly issued reports on the lack of enforcement and lack of willingness for USDA to tighten the rules without direction from Congress.
"It's just amazing we're still here decades later dealing with this loophole," Hoefner said.
Senator Grassley’s Press Release is here: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/…
Obama: Farmers Doing Well During His Administration
President Barack Obama noted his administration has been good to farmers as he talked about small businesses during a Tuesday afternoon press conference on the federal shutdown.
In criticizing House Republicans for the government shutdown, the president cited various business-related activities that aren't taking place. Obama then challenged the argument that Republicans are friendlier to small businesses than Democrats. For instance, the Small Business Administration gives out $1 billion in loans every month, but that isn't happening during the shutdown. "So there are small businesses in every state that are counting on loans to get their business going and you have got the party of small business going out there saying the Small Business Administration can't do it," Obama said.
Then the president pointed out farmers.
"You have got farmers, who are waiting for loans right now and those loans cannot be processed," he said. "The Republican Party says it's the party that looks out for farmers. I happen to disagree. I think farmers have done real good under my administration. But having said that, why would you keep the government shut down and those farmers not get those loans?"
The president went on to say the federal shutdown and debt-limit fight make it look to the rest of the world like Americans don't have their act together.
Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN
© Copyright 2013 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.