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Grassley Urges Administration to Respect Congress’s Farm Bill Process

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today questioned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack about farm payment limitations, the administration’s misuse of the Commodity Credit Corporation and Congress’s Farm Bill reauthorization process at a hearing on USDA oversight.

Grassley’s Questions follow.

Farm Payment Limitations

I’m going to start out with my favorite subject every time we have a Farm Bill up, on farm payment limitations.

In your testimony, you mention that if we keep the agriculture policy status quo we will continue to see consolidation occur in rural America.

You say, “It is either get big or get out,” and I agree with what you said there.

My long-held belief is that farm policy should be a limited safety net that helps farmers weather the storm of natural disasters and unpredictable commodity markets. Current law goes well beyond that.

The 2018 Farm Bill was intentionally written to help the largest farmers receive sometimes millions of dollars of subsidies from the federal government each year.

You’ve heard the figure of 10 percent of the biggest farms getting 70 percent of the benefits out of the farm program.

Not only to you, Mr. Secretary, but to the members of this committee: I’m asking that you would now to work with me to stop this needless abuse of taxpayer dollars.

I support farmers only receiving commodity payments if they are actively engaged in farming.

For the Republicans on this committee, I think some, or maybe all of us, are working on tightening work requirements for SNAP recipients. I hope that we would also look at work requirements in Title 1 of the Farm Bill to make sure that people are actively engaged in the process of farming if they’re going to benefit from it.

In the prior administration, Secretary Perdue issued a final rule where a payment recipient must provide either 25 percent of a farm’s total management hours on an annual basis or perform at least 500 hours of management annually.

But after the election in 2020, USDA issued a “correction” to that rule. A correction that I believe went against congressional intent.

When you talk about helping the many rather than a few – have you studied if having actual payment limitations could help prevent the big from getting bigger?

Biden Administration’s Willingness to Help Small and Mid-Sized Farmers

Is it philosophically possible for you and/or the administration to work with us to try to find some payment limitations so that we’re helping the medium and small-sized farmers, as opposed to subsidizing the big farmers to get bigger?

USDA’s Use of the Commodity Credit Corporation

When Congress is discussing Farm Bill reauthorizations, we have to work together in a bipartisan manner to create new programs and then work through the appropriations process to get them funded.

However, since 2017 the USDA, through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), has spent $65 billion in spending on priorities set at the discretion of the department, not Congress.

That means Congress, as elected representatives of the American taxpayers, did not go through the painstaking back-and-forth of compromising on how these programs will operate or how much or how little the programs should need.

It’s my belief that the USDA’s discretionary use of CCC undercuts this committee’s Farm Bill process. This Farm Bill will not be a success unless Congress takes back our responsibility of setting the nation’s farm programs.

Are you in the process of creating any new programs through the Commodity Credit Corporation while Congress is negotiating a Farm Bill?


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