Grassley Op-ed: Payment Limits Needed in Farm Bill

January 24, 2018 01:03 PM
In this op-ed, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) calls for payment limits in the next Farm Bill.

The following opinion column is written by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).


It’s often said that society is always only a few meals away from revolution. And that’s understandable. No one

Senator Charles Grassley

wants their family going hungry. It’s an underappreciated fact that agriculture is vital to our success and prosperity as a country. We’ve come to expect and often take for granted the wholesome and healthy foods that farmers and ranchers produce, which feed hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe.


Federal agriculture policy can be tough to navigate, but one thing is clear: the safety net programs farmers and ranchers across rural America rely on affect every American’s continued access to the relatively affordable food we eat every day. These programs form the backbone of the “Farm Bill,” legislation that spells out the system the hardworking farmers and ranchers of America depend upon. While these programs are critical, so too is our responsibility as federal legislators to craft law that is fiscally responsible and respectful of taxpayer dollars.


Four years ago, I stood before my colleagues in the Senate and said I wouldn’t give up on trying to get reasonable reforms included in the next Farm Bill. I said I wouldn’t give up on this process and that I would take advantage of any opportunities presented to me. Opportunity is again knocking on the Senate’s door, and I will again answer by presenting commonsense reforms, such as enacting payment limits for farm subsidies, maintaining effective crop insurance programs and modernizing the conservation reserve program.


An adequate and limited safety net stitches together the programs American agricultural needs and the responsibility we all have as good stewards of taxpayer dollars in an era of $20 trillion in federal debt. The Farm Bill provides farmers with a number of programs to mitigate risk. But there’s a problem when 10 percent of farmers receive 70 percent of the benefits. What’s worse is that the 10 percent receiving most of these benefits are wealthy farmers who use the money to bid up land prices and keep young and beginning farmers from the business. As a farmer, citizen and legislator, I believe it’s wrong to expect or to allow the government to give unlimited support to my farm or any other farm.


Setting sound, enforceable payment limits for subsidies is a straightforward way to close loopholes that allow some farmers to exploit the system. They do this by using non-farming family members – or “managers” – to qualify for additional subsidies, paid by taxpayers. This practice is dishonest and ties up funds that could help young farmers get started in farming.


Allowing one non-farming family member or manager per entity to receive $125,000, or $250,000 if they’re married, in government money is more than generous. I introduced legislation that would fix this problem during the last Farm Bill debate. In fact, my payment limit reform legislation was adopted by a bipartisan vote of 75 to 24 in the Senate. An identical version introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) was adopted by a bipartisan vote of 230 to 194 in the House of Representatives. Despite its overwhelming support, the conference committee removed the language and passed a watered down version in the final 2014 Farm Bill. To say this was disappointing would be an understatement. Intentionally allowing federal tax dollars to be exploited is wrong. It weakens public trust in government and could put important farm programs’ continued availability into question.


A new Farm Bill must also maintain an effective crop insurance program. Farm programs are designed to help farmers weather the storm during bad years and remain steady through the inherent risks associated with professional farming. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) must also be addressed in a new Farm Bill. During my annual 99 county meetings and in hundreds of meetings I hold with Iowans every year, I often hear concerns about CRP’s impact on family farmers. When entire farms composed of productive farmland are enrolled in CRP at rental rates with which many farmers can’t compete, growth opportunities are lost and too many farmers are put at a disadvantage – particularly young and beginning farmers. CRP is an important program that offers land owners additional avenues to gain value from their land while providing environmental benefits to the surrounding areas, but it must be properly administered and stay true to its original intent.


Congress missed an opportunity in 2014 to make meaningful, commonsense reforms to the Farm Bill that would have saved several hundred million dollars for taxpayers. Congress could use those savings to provide assistance to those who truly need help. Congress now has the chance to make up for that missed opportunity and do right by the agriculture community and American taxpayers as talks about a new Farm Bill begin.


I made a promise to Iowa farmers and all American taxpayers on the floor of the Senate in 2014 to never give up the fight to reform farm subsidy programs. I intend to keep that promise as Congress begins negotiating a new Farm Bill and will continue pushing for reforms that help family farmers and make the best and most efficient use of taxpayers’ money.


U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of  New Hartford, Iowa, is a lifelong family farmer and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is tasked with writing the next farm bill.

Back to news



Spell Check

cooper , IA
1/26/2018 12:15 PM

  We have a small family farm. I don't know anyone getting the kind of money Grassley is talking about. In addition our CRP price is far less than rents on surrounding land. In fact at one time our rent was one seventh of the going rate, it is about one quarter right now. The reason land prices are high is not manipulation by large farmers, Iowa loses 10 percent of it's high quality farmland to development every year. You cannot make more farmland so the price continues to remain prohibitive for young farmers.

central, MN
1/26/2018 02:01 PM

  I think Bob needs get off his farm and see what is really happening farm country. The proposal by Colin Peterson to have CRP payments at 80% of land rental rates makes a lot of sense. Grassleys' ideas sound good. The trick is to not through the baby out with the bathwater.

cooper, IA
1/26/2018 06:15 PM

  Al i know what happens in farm country. I also have experience with ridiculous government. Our family farm is divided into two different corporations. Years ago we enrolled in the crp some in each corp. The paperwork came back from fsa incorrectly all in one name. We argued with them but they didn't want to redo the forms and asked us to please enroll as is and have one corp pay rent to the other. We did. When we went to re enroll and tried to change it to the correct corp the new supervisor threatened to fine us and take back nine years of payments. We had to wait for a meeting and decision by the government committee to determine our fate. We got lucky and paid no fine but the next time we enrolled they once again forced us to set up the CRP incorrectly. We were threatened again so we did it their way Sorry but i don't trust the government because i have found them to be clueless. Our neighbor had to remove buffer strips and rework the ground to make the buffer strip an inch wider. Never mind that the process of doing that negated the purpose of the buffer strips. Giving the local offices more things to do is going to be counter productive in my view.


Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer