USDA Criticized for Paying Deceased Farmers

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U.S. Senators are trying to stop the USDA from making farm program payments to the estates of deceased farmers.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow raised concerns with the Farm Service Agency by sending a letter regarding farm program payment eligibility issues after the death of a farmer.

Under current law, farmers are required to be "actively engaged in farming" in order to receive farm program benefits by giving labor or management.

The USDA issued guidance that considers an estate to be "actively engaged" and therefore eligible for farm payments for up to two years after the death of a farmer without review.

The senators say that allows heirs to game the system. Evade payment limits by collecting on behalf of the deceased in addition to their own property.

Grassley is asking for answers, "So, why are they still making payments? It seems like a waste of taxpayers dollars. Now, they may try to justify it to us, but I'm telling you that it doesn't meet the common sense test that we are so familiar with of Iowans making any decisions."

In the letter, the senators ask FSA Acting Administrator Steven Peterson to provide answers to 13 in-depth questions by mid-March.