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As Farm Bill Moves to Conference Committee, Grassley Still Hoping For Payment Limits

Amy Mayer
IPR file photo
The farm bill determines, among many other things, how much money farmers can receive in support from the federal government. Iowa's Chuck Grassley wants an upper limit on those payments.

The next hurdle for the 2018 farm bill is a conference committee, where the House and Senate work out a compromise between their two very different bills.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says he doesn’t expect to serve as one of the nine senators on the committee because he doesn’t have the seniority, but he’s hoping his limit on federal payments will survive.

“The reforms I included allow any family farmer to still be eligible for up to a half a million dollars per year in subsidies through Title 1 farm programs,” Grassley said, referring to the section of the law that addresses supports for crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and peanuts. “Can you imagine a half million dollars and it still runs into opposition here by some commodity groups?”

Currently, a family farm can be structured in many ways and multiple couples can be listed as payment-eligible owners or managers. Grassley’s amendment would cap total payments to a single farm entity at $500,000.

Grassley’s payment limits are part of the Senate version of the bill but were not included in the bill the House passed. In the last round of farm bill negotiations, similar language was included in both versions and even so the conference committee eliminated it. This time, although Grassley recognizes he is in a weaker position, he plans to lobby the members of the conference committee to honor what he describes as “common sense reforms.”

“The farm bill is hard enough to pass anyway,” Grassley said, “and my reforms ought to make it a lot easier to pass a bill because it makes farm legislation more defensible.”

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames