Conservation compliance, payment limits cause discord at ag committee hearing | TheFencePost.com

Conservation compliance, payment limits cause discord at ag committee hearing

There were 17 witnesses from farm, commodity, crop insurance and credit groups who largely agreed on the agenda for the next farm bill at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on July 25, but there were differences over conservation compliance requirements for crop insurance eligibility and payment limits.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., signaled an interest in revisiting the issue of farmers proving they're complying with federal crop insurance rules in order to get subsidized premiums. That provision, included in the 2014 farm bill when Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chaired the committee to get environmentalists to support the bill, was "costly and unneeded," Roberts said. Several witnesses agreed the provision made life harder for farmers, but when pressed by Stabenow, they struggled to come up with examples of farmers who actually lost their crop insurance eligibility because of the provision.

Southern farmers also testified in favor of ending payment limitations on farm bill payments, saying strict payment limits, especially on certain family members, could force them out of business.

But Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has pushed for payment limits for years, said the organizations complaining about payment limits were part of an effort in 2014 "to thwart my reforms."

Giving non-farmers payments is "indefensible," and making unlimited subsidy payments shifts risk to the taxpayers, Grassley said.

"For the life of me," Grassley said, he could not understand why a payment limit of $125,000 per person or $250,000 for a married couple doubled for peanut growers "is not enough.

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"Why do we leave loopholes in place that leave us open for ridicule?" Grassley asked.