How much difference can a simple definition make? If it’s USDA’s definition of “farmer”, millions of misspent taxpayer dollars for loan deficiency payments and other Title 1 programs.
USDA is seeking citizen comments on who is “actively engaged in farming” to determine who qualifies as a farmer to receive Title 1 benefits. Title 1 was intended to provide a safety net for family farms but now heaps hundreds of thousands of dollars per farm on thousands of farms organized in complicated business structures solely to maximize the number of partners “harvesting” our tax dollars by falsely claiming to be “farmers” and “farm managers”, who never see or even think about “farming” until time to collect their government checks.
Every taxpayer has a stake in this issue. If you live and work in a rural town, you have even more to gain or lose by the definition of who a farmer is... your job, your schools, your hospital, your churches… everything important for a healthy community.
Now USDA proposes “limiting” payments for non-family farms (farms owned by unrelated people) to “only” four managers and their spouses to “only” $125,000 each with none required to perform more than 500 hours of labor and/or management a year... capping farms at one million dollars per year. This “cap” does not affect crop insurance premium subsidies.
Family-owned farms of all sizes would continue receiving unlimited payments to as many adult family members they choose to designate as “actively managing” their holdings... leaving the obvious loophole for complex non-family farms to reorganize as family operations to continue abusing the system.
Such payouts, whether to farms owned solely by families or not, distort the agricultural sector by giving large complex operations enormous artificial competitive advantages against the traditional family farms we cherish as essential to our American heritage... the main reason we are losing family farms and rural communities serving them.
That’s why it’s important for us to tell USDA to limit payments for all farms (family and non-family) to the farmer (owner/operator) and one additional manager (family or non-family)... and requiring each to contribute at least 500 hours of any combination of labor and active management or at least 25 percent of the total management required for a given operation annually to qualify for the still generous $125,000 support for each, not to exceed $250,000 per farm. A farm wanting more managers and workers can pay them and deduct the cost for tax purposes like any other business. USDA should redirect the millions saved into beginning farmer programs and other rural development initiatives strengthening our farm communities.
The USDA will accept comments through May 26. If you feel $125,000 is too high, suggest a lower limit. You can comment electronically at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=CCC-2015-0002-0001. Or, submit written comments to: James Baxa, Production, Emergencies, and Compliance Division, FSA, U..S.Department of Agriculture (USDA), Stop 0501, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20250–0501, with “RIN: 0560-A131; Vol. 80, No. 58; Page Number 15916” in the subject line.