Over the last three decades, American agriculture has become increasingly consolidated. As of 2015, a majority of our food (51 percent) came from farms with over $1 million in annual sales – up 20 percent since 1991. Federal policy has historically contributed to this consolidation – as well as to the homogeneity and inequity caused by consolidation – by directing disproportionate resources toward the largest and wealthiest agribusiness operations. Sadly, the House Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill chooses to expand access to unlimited subsidies for mega-farms instead of acting as a champion for America’s small-medium scale, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
The bill includes a litany of bonuses for mega-farms, but perhaps the most egregious is the attempt to throw out a 30-year old rule preventing corporations from receiving unlimited commodity payments. Lucrative loopholes in the bill for the largest, wealthiest agribusiness operations would allow:
- Most corporate farms to receive multiple payments, rather than being limited to a single payment under a single payment cap, which is currently the case.
- Mega-farms to more easily reorganize as “family farms,” thereby increasing farm subsidy payments to a single farm by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
- Unlimited subsidies and no accountability to taxpayers by removing payment limitations from marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments.
- An exemption for partnerships, joint ventures, LLCs, and Subchapter S corporations from the adjusted gross income means-testing provision that makes any person or legal entity with an average adjusted gross income exceeding $900,000 (effectively $1.8 million for many couples) ineligible for commodity or conservation payments.
Healthy soil, clean water, fresh air, and thriving wildlife habitats – these are just some of the many benefits of the farm bill’s voluntary conservation programs. Farmers and ranchers know that conservation practices directly contribute to the long-term sustainability and profitability of their operations, and financial and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help them put those practices into action. Voluntary conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are incredibly popular because they provide producers with the tools and resources they need to be effective stewards.
Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, April 30, 2018