Farm Bill negotiations continue in Washington, with the law set to expire in September. The new Farm Bill drafted by senators currently calls for an end to direct payments to farmers, saving the federal government about five billion dollars a year. Aaron Lehman is a fifth generation farmer, raising about 600 acres of corn and soybeans near Polk City.
Lehman got $8,000 in direct payments last year, but he supports the move to end them. “Restrictions need to be tighter,” Lehman says. Lehman, a member of the Iowa Farmers Union, says direct federal payments seem to have fueled the growth in super-sized farm operations that cultivate thousands of acres.
Lehman supports limits on federal payments to those large-scale farms. “If you want to go farm three-counties worth of farmground, fine. Go at it,” Lehman says. “But the rest of us aren’t going to help pay the bill.”
But other farmers oppose those limits. Kevin Ross is president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “In my mind, it’s discrimination on certain farmers versus another,” Ross says. According to Ross, a farmer may look rich on paper — based on the rising value of farmland — but that doesn’t mean they’re wealthy.
“Assets don’t exactly necessarily mean profits and we tie up a lot of money in risk every year,” Ross says. Ross is a sixth-generation farmer. He raises corn, soybeans, hay and cattle on his farm near Minden, in western Iowa.