At a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack gave an update on the implementation of the Agricultural Act of 2014.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has been dissatisfied with the bill's handling of actively engaged farmers ever since the conference report was completed. He says the provision was watered down by conferees, and still allows too many farmers who aren't actively engaged in farming to collect subsidies on a single farm. Grassley used one example of a single farm in Louisiana.
"One farm operation, 22 different sub-units, 17 owners, 16 owners were named as managers and being named as managers, then they benefited from the farm program and some of them aren't even in the farming operation on a regular basis. They live in seven different states and consequently they can't be what you call 'actively engaged.'"
Before the farm bill was passed, Grassley had provisions in the bill, "The purpose of my approach is to make sure that non-farmers don't benefit from the farm programs, like these 16 people in Louisiana got more than $600,000.
At the hearing Vilsack suggested current farm law limits his authority to act on the issue and pointed out that USDA is still adjusting to the loss of one fifth of its farm service agency staff due to budget cuts.