Q: Which payment reforms do you consider untouchable in negotiations on the farm and food bill?
A: As one of two working family farmers serving in the U.S. Senate, I work to give a strong voice to American agriculture. I’m also committed to getting Washington to do a better job of tightening its belt. This year I secured two reforms that are included in both the Senate and House versions of the farm and food bill, including a fixed maximum annual payment limitation of $250,000 per married couple and an explicit directive that gives teeth to the definition of “actively engaged in farming.” Unfortunately, federal farm payments have flowed to non-farmers gaming the system. These types of shenanigans are indefensible and have no place in the farm and food safety net. An investigation I requested by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office exposes flaws in the system, including a legal loophole that gives the program a black eye. In its 60-page report, the GAO cited an example of a farm that received $400,000 in farm subsidies in 2012. In a complex legal arrangement, the farm was organized as a general partnership, with six corporations and 11 members of the same family, ages 18-88. The legislative reforms I championed in the Farm Program Integrity Act of 2013 are mirrored in the farm bill currently being negotiated in Congress. It would change the definition to allow only one off-farm manager, which would help to crack down on general partnerships that are created to exploit the system to qualify for farm payments. The farm safety net is intended to help those who grow our food to stay afloat when times are tough. It’s not intended to allow gougers to help themselves to feed at the taxpayers’ trough. By closing these loopholes and limiting lopsided farm payments, we can strengthen America’s farm safety net.