A longstanding complaint about federal farm payments is that some monies go to people who aren’t involved in actually managing a farm’s operations. Now, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have agreed to end such payments when the farms aren’t family-owned.
Starting with the 2016 crop year for most, farm safety-net payments will be issued only to active managers of farms, the USDA announced. The change is consistent with directions Congress placed in the 2014 farm bill.
Only active managers of farms that operate as joint ventures or general partnerships may receive the payments. Managers must show they contribute at least 500 hours of farm-related work a year, or at least 25 percent of the time needed to operate the farm.
Congress requires that the new rule will not apply to family farms or change regulations related to contributions of land, capital, equipment or labor. Farms that already planted fall crops for 2016 have until the 2017 crop year to comply.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, explains the new policy by saying that “federal farm safety-net programs are designed to protect against unanticipated changes in the marketplace for those who actively share in the risk of that farming operation.”
Ending the payments to non-managers removed an item that drew some of the loudest complaints from taxpayers and lawmakers. That’s a significant consideration, given how difficult it is to find enough support to pass farm bills in a Congress increasingly dominated by urban lawmakers.