Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is renewing his fight against farm subsidies in the latest version of the farm bill. Grassley, a Republican, says 10-percent of the nation’s biggest farmers are reaping 70-percent of the benefits of the farm program. He’s releasing a report from the General Accounting Office that details how that farm program is being used — and misused. “I asked for this analysis of what are known as ‘actively engaged’ regulations for eligibility for the farm program,” Grassley says. “Actively engaged, in other words, are you a farmer or aren’t you?”
A separate report out today from the Environmental Working Group says 18-thousand people who all live in the country’s largest cities, including New York, LA and Chicago, got about $24-million in farm subsidies last year. Grassley says he’s written legislation for inclusion in the new farm bill that will, in his words, “substantially limit farm payments,” while making it easier to enforce who should be eligible for them. “These regulations have been an issue over the years in many farm bill debates,” Grassley says. “Some reforms tightening eligibility have been made, but let me tell you, there’s a long ways to go.”
Grassley says he’s continued to work for years, pushing for these changes in how farmers qualify for payments. Grassley says, “It’s the kind of reform that should strengthen support for the farm program by keeping the program focused and working as intended and not look to the American taxpayer as we’re just throwing away money.”
The legislation aims to better define who qualifies as a farmer, based on elements like the amount of land owned and the time spent actually working the land. Under the definitions, Grassley says he still qualifies as a farmer, as he and his son crop-share in northeast Iowa near New Hartford. Grassley says they each pay 50-percent of the cost for things like fertilizer, seed and land payments, they both work the land and they split the harvest 50-50.
Grassley says he’s one of only two active farmers in Congress, alongside Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana.