Today is a make or break moment for anyone interested in creating a farm bill that works for farmers and ranchers as well as taxpayers. The Senate is furiously debating amendments and looking to finalize a bill prior to leaving town for the 4th of July. It’s critical that senators be offered the opportunity to vote on amendments to improve the bill.
Where we are
The Senate started debating the 2018 farm bill on Tuesday with an aim of holding a vote on passage by Friday morning as they look to exit for the week long July 4th holiday. But the clock is ticking and it’s looking increasingly unlikely senators will complete debate. Senator Rubio (R-FL), with the support of Menendez (D-NJ), and Cruz (R-TX), has objected to consideration of any additional amendments or accelerated move to a final vote unless he gets a vote on his effort to prevent farm bill funds from being spent on trade promotion in Cuba. Without an agreement, the earliest senators can vote to move on to amendment votes is Friday morning.
Earlier this week, taxpayers and farmers and ranchers won a solid victory in efforts to ensure only actual farmers are receiving support in farm safety net programs. On Wednesday, Senator Roberts bowed to political reality and included Mr. Grassley’s actively engaged amendment, SA 3231, as one of 18 amendments in a manager’s amendment. Grassley’s efforts will close a loophole that allowed thousands of people to qualify for up to $125,000 in subsidies simply by providing “personal management”, like participating on conference calls, with no requirement they live or even work on the farm.
But there are other opportunities to strengthen the bill.
Most notably Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Grassley have an amendment to require the most profitable farm businesses pick up a bigger share of the costs in the federal crop insurance program. Under crop insurance farm businesses can purchase crop insurance policies guaranteeing they make up to 85 percent of their anticipated revenue. And federal taxpayers currently pay, on average, 62 percent of the premium costs for these generous policies. Durbin amendment SA 3103 would simply reduce by 15% the taxpayer burden to subsidize premiums for individual farmers that make over $700,000 a year ($1.4 million for a married couple) after deducting their costs of doing business.
Currently, crop insurance is the only agricultural income entitlement program that does not include an income test or payment limit.
- In 2016, less than 4 percent of farms had more than $1 million in sales – BEFORE adjusting their income for costs
- GAO found less than 1 percent of farms would be affected by this provision
- Taxpayers will still pick up 85% of crop insurance costs for families making more than $1.4 million
Durbin-Grassley SA 3103 is a common sense step toward a more cost-effective financial safety for American farmers and ranchers.