Monday, February 15, 2010

Mega Farm Loophole Remains Open

In a repudiation of the president’s central campaign pledge on rural policy, the Obama administration has refused to close the biggest loophole in the federal farm payment limitation.

Last month the Obama administration joined its predecessors in failing to act by releasing regulations that continue this gaping loophole. As a result, mega farms will continue claiming unlimited payments to drive smaller farmers out of business.

USDA allows investors to count as active farmers as long as they participate in a few conference calls, according to the Government Accountability Office. That enables mega farms to get another set of payments up to the limit for each additional investor in the operation.

The decision to continue this loophole is not just one forgotten campaign promise. This promise was the centerpiece of Obama’s rural policy and his central message to rural America about the kind of change he offered. But the administration has now refused to make the one change it can make without waiting for Congress – tighten USDA administration of farm programs to close loopholes.

Our communities have real opportunities to advance. But one key to our future is a federal government that works with us to capitalize on those opportunities, rather than against us by subsidizing agricultural concentration.

At an October 2007 Linn County, Iowa, campaign event Obama said, “Too many family farmers are being squeezed as big agribusiness takes up larger shares of federal subsidies.” He released a rural platform that day pledging immediate action to close loopholes by limiting payments to active farmers who work the land and their landlords – noting that “every president since Ronald Reagan had the authority to close this loophole but failed to act.”

Well Mr. President what happened?

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