Thanks to speedy action by the Agriculture Committee, the Senate is on track to pass its five-year farm bill before the end of June, boosting the chances that the Republican-controlled Congress will enact the major legislation before election-year tensions stymie work later this year.
Congress can "restore common-sense rules and fiscal integrity" to the farm program by setting a $125,000-per-person limit on farm subsidies, said seven farm advocacy groups in advance of the Senate Agriculture Committee vote today on its farm bill. Rather than give his own opinion, the sponsor of the $125,000 limit told reporters to ask chairman Pat Roberts about the chances it will become part of the bill.
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 on Monday, 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.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote next week on a bipartisan farm bill that makes few changes to food stamps, farm supports, and crop insurance, a marked contrast to the decision by House Republicans to pursue welfare reform in their farm bill.
The USDA has a "glaring loophole" in its farm subsidy rules that allows people to collect up to $125,000 a year in subsidies for providing farm management, said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is trying to get a tougher set of rules into law.
A corn, soybean and rice operation collected $3.7 million in crop subsidies in 2015, said the Government Accountability Office in a report on USDA's rule limiting subsidies to people "actively engaged" in farming. The rule requires members of general partnerships and joint ventures to provide land, capital or equipment to a farm and also labor or management.
House Democrats stood solidly against the GOP-written farm bill in a test vote on Wednesday that gave Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway little room to maneuver on the legislation, which would tighten work requirements for food stamps and loosen subsidy rules for farmers.
While ready to move on the farm bill, House Republican leaders are giving Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway time to persuade "a lot of undecideds" to vote for tougher work requirements for SNAP recipients and looser subsidy rules for farmers. A sizable number of Republican lawmakers say Conaway wasn't tough enough on either group and want to tighten the access to federal support.
House Republican leaders have scheduled the farm bill for debate next week, confident that when the time comes, a majority will vote for its combination of tougher work requirements for SNAP recipients and looser subsidy rules for farmers.