Senator Chuck Grassley is suggesting the federal government’s “deficit problem” means it’s likely there will be new “enforceable payment limits” on farm subsidies.

During a speech at this weekend’s Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines, Grassley said he supports a federal “farm safety net” and expects crop insurance subsidies to be part of the next Farm Bill, but Grassley has been a frequent critic of sending those payments to wealthy landowners who aren’t actively engaged in the farm operation.

“If you’re a farmer, you have nothing to worry about,” Grassley said. “…Those who get subsidies, but do not farm should admit it, that it’s ridiculous with our $20 trillion debt.”

AUDIO of Grassley’s speech

Grassley’s aiming to limit payments to large-scale farm operations, too.

“The reality of large farmers using loopholes to get unlimited amount of subsidy is they bid up land prices and cash rents that create a huge economic barrier for the next generation,” Grassley said.

Grassley and Joni Ernst — Iowa’s other U.S. Senator — both serve on the Senate Ag Committee. Ernst and Grassley told the audience at the Iowa Ag Summit their top priority is ensuring crop insurance subsidies are retained in the next Farm Bill. However, Ernst said the Conservation Reserve Program should be evaluated.

“One of the most common concerns that I hear from farmers around the state is that whole farms are being idled through CRP,” Ernst said.

Farmers receive yearly “rental payments” from the federal government for acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and some of the contracts last for up to 15 years. The program was designed to take “environmentally sensitive” land out of row-crop production, but Ernst said too much prime ground for corn and soybeans is being idled in the CRP.

“In addition to be an inefficient use of taxpayer resources, putting productive farmland out of production for extended periods is harmful to our young and beginning farmers and those surrounding communities,” Ernst said.

AUDIO of Ernst’s speech

Iowa is the only state to have both of its U.S. senators serving on the ag committee. Grassley is predicting the panel will produce a first draft of the Farm Bill by Christmas.