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AgMag BLOG

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Farming Isn’t a Requirement to Claim Farm Subsidies

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The old adage – “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” – still holds true in farm country, right?

Not if you’re an absentee partner in a farm operation.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Tuesday (Oct. 8) found that of the $1.5 billion in farm subsidies doled out in 2012 to people who were supposedly “actively engaged” in farming, nearly half went to individuals who wouldn’t know how to steer a tractor or run a combine.

If they don’t do the work, why do they get to collect taxpayer-funded farm payments?

Under the law, an individual who’s “actively engaged in farming” is entitled to claim a farm subsidy, but the new report found that USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which distributes the money, uses a definition of “actively engaged” that is way too broad. This allowed approximately $736 million to go in 2012 to people who didn’t actually farm. In some cases they didn’t even live in the same state as the farm.

Unfortunately, wasting taxpayer money on misconceived farm subsidies is nothing new.

Earlier this year, EWG researchers found that residents of America’s 54 largest cities collected more than $24 million in direct payment farm subsidies in 2012. People who lived in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago or elsewhere cashed in even if they had never farmed a day in their lives.

Ultimately, it’s farmers and taxpayers – two groups Congress claims to care about – who are hurt the most by these wasteful and misdirected farm subsidies. At a time of record farm profits and record federal deficits, farmers have been the first to admit that these programs need to change.

Congress should listen by fixing these programs in a sound five-year farm bill.

By eliminating loopholes and adding responsible limits to subsidy programs, Congress can ensure that taxpayers won’t be on the hook and that farmers who really need the help will get it.

America’s farmers are the best in the world at what they do – but until Congress fixes these deeply flawed subsidy programs – American taxpayers and the farmers who rely on these programs will continue to suffer at the hands of a Congress that has been totally ineffectual when it comes to reforming the farm bill.

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