Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced the Farm Program Integrity Act of 2013 (H.R. 1932) in the House of Representatives to restore integrity and fiscal responsibility to the commodity program portion of the farm safety net.
This bill is identical to a Senate bill (S. 281) introduced earlier this year in the Senate by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), and adopted by the Senate last year as part of the new five-year farm bill. The Farm Program Integrity Act places a hard cap on farm program payments and closes current loopholes to ensure payments go to working farmers. Due to current program eligibility loopholes, mega-farms and absentee investors can currently receive an unlimited government check through farm commodity programs.
“Adoption of the Farm Program Integrity Act would put an end to widespread abuse in farm commodity programs,” according to NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner. “In every survey and poll on this issue over the years, a strong majority of farmers in all regions of the country support payment limit reform. The measure has failed to become law due to the power and influence mega-farms wield in Washington. Times have changed, however, and fiscal pressures have turned much-needed scrutiny on farm programs. The current consensus is that unlimited taxpayer subsidies are no longer justifiable.”
The bill would allow for support payments to working farmers plus one additional manager per farm. The one additional manager provision is a reasonable compromise, forged in the Senate last year, that addresses the problem of eligibility loopholes – a problem that has plagued farm programs for far too long and that has fueled the consolidation and demise of family farms across the country.
NSAC and the farmers it represents urge the House of Representatives to support this bill and incorporate its policy reforms in the 2013 Farm Bill currently under negotiation. The House Agriculture Committee is not expected to endorse this common-sense reform, and is likely instead to maintain a commodity entitlement with no effective limits and wide-open loopholes when it writes its five-year farm bill next week. NSAC hopes the full House will see the matter differently and vote later this summer in support of family farms and fiscal responsibility by adopting Representative Fortenberry’s proposal.
“Under current law, the top ten percent of farm payment recipients collect nearly 70 percent of all payments," said Rep. Fortenberry. "The Farm Program Integrity Act seeks to level the playing field for farm families by establishing meaningful payment limitations on large farms and closing loopholes that currently benefit investors not actively engaged in farming. The savings from reforms established in the legislation would help ensure that the farm payments system is set on a more fiscally-sustainable path.”
“We applaud Representative Fortenberry for his leadership on this issue. We also thank the Senate for including this common-sense and fiscally responsible policy in the draft farm bill released Thursday by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.),” said Hoefner. “While the measure introduced today by Representative Fortenberry is not all the reform that is ultimately needed, it is the critical and fundamental starting point for creating a sound and fiscally responsible farm safety net,” concluded Hoefner. “We encourage the House to adopt the Fortenberry proposal and to also place a similar cap on the other major part of the safety net - crop insurance subsidies -- as it proceeds with its farm bill deliberations.”
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