To the editor:
Sen. Grassley (IA) and Rep. Fortenberry (NE) are standing up for family farmers in very tough times. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced they plan to release regulations this year addressing payments to family farms. These payments offer essential support to family farmers, but current loopholes are exploited by the largest farms that sometimes receive hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in payments.
Sen. Grassley and Rep. Fortenberry have asked USDA to make sure that only people actively engaged in farming - those with "dirt under their fingernails" - benefit from those payments, and that USDA curbs what are effectively limitless payments to corporate farms. Most family farmers - those struggling right now with saturated fields and unplanted corn - will never be able to access the hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments that are available via loopholes to the largest operations.
The farm bill, passed last year, added a requirement that USDA expands the people involved in a farm operation who are eligible for payments to include cousins, nephews, and nieces. Sen. Grassley and Rep. Fortenberry are asking that when USDA writes these regulations, they use the opportunity to strengthen requirements for farm involvement of these family members.
At a time when the playing field is tougher than has been seen in years, it is vitally important USDA enforces these requirements to make that playing field more level.
Policy manager, Center for Rural Affairs
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.