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Support The Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limit
by Sustainable Agriculture Coalition



After reaching a much-anticipated agreement over the number of amendments that can be introduced, the full Senate began debate on the next Farm Bill December 7 and is expected to start voting on December 11.  THIS IS IT! The full Senate’s consideration and vote marks the farm bill’s final stages and the last chance to institute real reform before the bill moves to the Conference Committee.

Like the widely denounced House bill payment limit provision, the Senate Committee bill maintains the current high commodity payment limits and loopholes that lead to farm consolidation and the slow demise of family-scale agriculture.  It also soaks up precious resources that then cannot be spent on key programs that are short-funded by the bill.

An amendment introduced on the floor of the Senate by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is our last chance to reform these commodity payments and fund sustainable agriculture priorities.  The Dorgan-Grassley amendment will put a hard cap of $250,000 on commodity payments, close loopholes, and shift the savings to beginning and minority farmer, rural development, conservation, nutrition, and anti-hunger programs.  It will be the major floor amendment on the Farm Bill, and the vote count is expected to be very, very close.  Every single vote will count.


The message is simple:  “I am a constituent and am calling to ask that Senator_________ vote YES on the Dorgan-Grassley payment limits amendment on the floor of the U.S. Senate during the Farm Bill deliberations.  The amendment supports family farmers and also funds important beginning and minority farmer, rural development, conservation, nutrition, and anti-hunger priorities.  How will the Senator vote on this defining amendment for the 2007 Farm Bill?”

It’s easy to call: To call your Senators’ offices, you can contact the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or locate your Senators’ office number by going to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/.  When you call the office, ask for their legislative aide that works on agriculture.  If the aide is unavailable, leave a short message of support for the Dorgan-Grassley amendment, along with your name and phone number, on the aide’s voice mail or with the receptionist.

If you prefer to write, fax a brief letter of support, addressed to the Senator, and remember to include your name and address and contact information.  Fax numbers can be found under your Senators’ listing at: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/.    

In recent years, many of the original goals and methods of commodity programs have been abandoned and replaced with production subsidies that encourage overproduction and often low prices.  Negative consequences of these policies include farm consolidation and the disappearance of mid-sized family farms, land prices rising well beyond market levels, reduced farming opportunities for a new generation of farmers, and the growth of industrial animal feeding facilities.  While a variety of reforms are needed to reduce or eliminate the negative impacts of current commodity programs, the very effective first step Congress could take in the 2007 Farm Bill is to cap subsidies to mega farms through the Dorgan-Grassley Farm Program Payment Limitation Reform Amendment.

The Dorgan-Grassley Farm Program Payment Limitation Reform Amendment would:

Ï Limit annual per farm commodity subsidy payments to $250,000.  The amendment would establish effective caps of $40,000 on direct payments, $60,000 on counter cyclical payments, and $150,000 on loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains, including gains on generic certificates and forfeited commodities.  The combined limit would be $250,000.  

Ï Close loopholes.  No longer would farmers be able to use generic commodity certificates or forfeitures to the government to evade the limits.  Those limitation avoidance mechanisms would now count against the limits.  All payments would count toward an individual’s limit, whether received directly or through a corporation or other type of entity.  All beneficial interests in an entity would be subject to payment limitations, making it more difficult to create “paper” farms for the purposes of exceeding the limits. 

Ï Ensure that payments flow to working farmers.   The amendment creates a measurable standard to determine who is eligible to receive farm payments.  It requires that management be personally provided on a regular, substantial, and continuous basis through direct supervision and direction of farming activities and labor and on-site services.  Landowners who share rent land to an actively-engaged producer remain exempt from the “actively engaged” rules provided their payments are commensurate to their risk in the crop produced.

The $1.15 billion in savings from the Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limitation Amendment will be shifted to:

Ï Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program ($60 million)
Ï Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program ($20 million)
Ï Pigford black farmer lawsuit settlement with USDA ($100 million)
Ï Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program ($40 million)
Ï Farmers Market Promotion Program ($15 million)
Ï Organic Certification Cost Share Program ($3 million)
Ï Community Food Grants ($50 million)
Ï Grasslands Reserve Program ($45 million)
Ï Farmland Protection Program ($52 million)
Ï Emergency Food Assistance Program ($315 million)
Ï Food Stamp Benefit Enhancements ($396 million)

Courtesy of http://www.msawg.org/


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