Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have introduced a bipartisan bill that would place a hard cap on farm payments and close current loopholes to ensure payments flow to working farmers. The Rural America Preservation Act (RAPA) was previously introduced in June 2011. Key revisions have been made to ensure that the bill is relevant to likely farm bill changes in commodity programs, which may include an end to direct payments and enactment of new types of payments to take their place.“This bill is absolutely critical to targeting the expected $5 billion a year in 2012 Farm Bill farm payments to individuals actively involved in farming, with reasonable caps,” said Juli Obudzinski, policy associate at theNational Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
RAPA is a cost-saving proposal with two major provisions that, if enacted, will lower the per-farm cap on farm commodity program payments and ensure that federal farm payments flow to working farmers.
The first provision would place a hard cap on commodity payments so that no farm couple can receive more than $250,000 per year in farm subsidies, capping payments at $100,000 and loan benefits at $150,000 a year. Currently, there are higher statutory limits on payments and no limits on loan benefits.
The second provision of this bill will close existing loopholes relating to the current vague and unenforceable regulatory standard for “actively managing” farm operations.
The current standard allows mega farms to collect higher payments than the law would otherwise seem to allow.The bill addresses this by strictly limiting the circumstances under which individuals providing only management and no farm labor can benefit.
Senator Grassley said, "A farm safety net aimed at the farmers it was originally intended to help is crucial to ensuring a safe and stable food supply.
We simply cannot continue to see 10 percent of the biggest farmers get 70 percent of the farm payments. If we continue along this path, we’re going to see support slide for a farm and nutrition bill when it’s just as critical as ever.”
The Rural America Preservation Act is very similar to previous versions of the same bill offered by Senator Grassley during several previous farm bill debates, including one co-sponsored by former Senator Bryon Dorgan (D-ND) that won strong majority bipartisan support on the Senate floor in the past two farm bill debates. PD
—From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition news release