Farm Bill Reform

May 11, 2008

By: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Excerpt from Congressional Record May 15, 2008:

America’s farm safety net was created during the Great Depression as an essential reform to help support rural communities and protect struggling family farmers from the financial shocks of volatile weather and equally volatile commodity prices.

Almost 75 years later the reasons for maintaining that strong safety net are still there. The weather is still volatile, as we have seen this year. Crops are still subject to blight and disease. Farming is still a very risk-intensive business. We have seen prices going up and down–recently down in Asia–as we have seen investment and speculation in the farm market. I think it is very important that we have a safety net as we look at our food security so we don’t get in the same place as we are with our lack of energy security…

[T]his bill is going to do better for our farmers by closing loopholes and tightening income eligibility standards.

First, the new farm bill eliminates the “three-entity rule.” This will cut down on abuse by applying payment limits strictly to individuals–and married couples–and ending the practice of dividing farms into multiple corporations to multiply payments.

Second, I am pleased to report that the conferees have included substantial income limits for those who participate in the commodity programs, which is an area where I fought hard for reform. What the bill says is, if you earn more than $500,000 in nonfarm income–so if you have a high-paying job off the farm, or income from investments, or any other source of income off the farm in excess of $500,000–you cannot participate in the commodity programs.

This makes good sense to me. This will take care of multimillionaires, like David Letterman and Paul Allen of Microsoft, or Maurice Wilder, the real-estate developer in Florida, getting farm payments intended for family farmers.

The bill also says that if you have more than $750,000 in farm-related income, you lose your direct payments. I think this also makes sense. I would venture to say that any farm bringing in that much money after expenses is of a size and scope that they no longer need the support of taxpayers…

In conclusion, there are a lot of important changes in this bill, and there is a lot that is good for rural America, and the safety net is vital for farmers. We have made important advances in conservation, and made much-needed improvements to our nutrition programs. Perhaps most importantly, this bill lays the groundwork for farmers to play an even greater role in our country’s energy security and will advance us to the next generation of biofuels.

(Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Congressional Record. 5/15/08. p. S4220-S4222).