Tuesday, November 24, 2020

USDA loosens qualifications for farmers to get federal aid; Republican Sen. Grassley says the changes invite fraud

On Wednesday, the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture "restored the previous definitions of 'active personal management,' 'significant contribution,' and 'related phrasing' in a rule on farm-program subsidy eligibility and payment limitations," Jerry Hagstrom reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer.

FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said the rules were meant to help family farms, but critics say the move invites fraud. One was Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a hog farmer, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"As both a family farmer and senator, I've worked with the USDA over the years in good faith to ensure these programs are used for their intended purposes and aren't being taken advantage of," Grassley said.  "It's a shame that USDA is backtracking after just finalizing a fair rule for this program a couple of months ago."

Grassley said that is "particularly concerning" after the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, "just published a report confirming that farm payments need additional oversight and that 19 of the top 20 operations that use these loopholes are in the South. This revision of the final rule has not deterred me. I'll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to fix this broken system in the next Farm Bill."

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