April 16, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
End of Payment Limitations Would Pave Way for Further Farm Consolidation
House Draft Farm Bill proposes to eliminate annual subsidy caps, opening subsidy floodgates
Washington, DC, April 16, 2018 – Included in the draft farm bill presented by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) last week were several provisions that would reverse decades of precedent, and usher American agriculture into a new era of unlimited farm subsidies for the nation’s largest mega-farms. As part of its ongoing analysis of the Chairman’s draft bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reviewed these provisions and found that they would promote land and economic consolidation, with the primary beneficiaries being the largest, wealthiest farm operations.
“Where payment limits should be set and how they should be structured are debated every farm bill cycle,” said Greg Fogel, Policy Director for NSAC. “Never before, however, has there been such a brazen attempt to undo years of statute for the benefit of the nation’s largest farm operations. This radical proposal would turn what is intended to be a safety net into an unlimited give away, placing family farms at a disadvantage and stunting the growth of new farm businesses by bidding up the price of already scarce farmland.”
During the 2014 Farm Bill debates, both the House and Senate chose to adopt historic reforms and close payment limit loopholes to make the rules effective and enforceable. Sadly, the leadership of the Agriculture Committees chose to circumvent that bipartisan and bicameral provision, and instead chose to make only minor adjustments tightening the rules for mega-farms organized as general partnerships and joint ventures
Though limitations adopted in the final 2014 Farm Bill were far from game changing, they did make at least some effort to level the playing field for family farmers and reduce abusive subsidy schemes used to circumvent the law. The Conaway proposal makes a complete 180° turn from these reform efforts, and effectively ensures that payment limitations will never actually apply to anyone who cares to avoid them.
Key provisions in the draft bill on subsidy payment limitations include:
“Effective payment limit reform relies on tightening the definition of what constitutes farm management,” said Fogel. “Current rules are already so loose as to allow for rampant abuse of subsidy payments, which has resulted in shameful misuse of taxpayer dollars. For the Chairman to now take things even further by effectively eliminating both the payment limit and the AGI income test is unconscionable. It should not be too much to ask that beneficiaries of farm program subsidies undertake farm labor and management on at least a half-time basis. After all, the programs were created to help working farmers. It is painfully ironic given the current debate over work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that the same proposal would remove work requirements from the commodity program.”
NSAC urges the House Committee to reject in its entirety the proposed changes to payment limitation and AGI provisions in the Chairman’s mark.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net