Harkin's farm bill draft circulated
WASHINGTON - Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would limit total commodity subsidies to $250,000 per farm household, would not allow spouses to qualify for farm benefits and would ban commodity subsidies for households mak...
WASHINGTON - Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would limit total commodity subsidies to $250,000 per farm household, would not allow spouses to qualify for farm benefits and would ban commodity subsidies for households making more than $500,000 per year, according to a farm bill commodity title draft Harkin circulated Sept. 5 to farm policy experts.
The 128-page document, which was written in legislative language, also contained Harkin's proposal to change the countercyclical payments program from one that pays farmers when prices are low to one that pays farmers when national revenue for a crop goes down. It also would set marketing loan rates at a five-year olympic average of prices, but would not allow an increase or decrease of more than 1 percent for the loan rate for the preceding year. Agweek obtained a copy of the draft.
Kate Cyrul, a Harkin spokeswoman, declined to comment on the content of the draft.
"It should come as no surprise that staff for Chairman Harkin have been putting onto paper policies, a number of which he has been discussing for many months - especially a fairer, smarter countercyclical program that provides better income protection for farmers," Cryul says in an e-mail.
"These policies have been incorporated into a working draft document and shared with policy experts off of Capitol Hill for comment. We had hoped this process would be confidential, so that we could incorporate ideas before the Chairman releases his full proposal. Legislative language will change as discussions with the committee go forward."
The payment limitations provision limits a farm household to $50,000 in direct payments, $50,000 in countercyclical payments and $150,000 in marketing loan gains, but it also says that under no circumstances could a household get more than $250,000 in total commodity subsidies. The draft also says "The husband and wife shall be considered 1 individual" unless before marriage, each spouse was engaged in unrelated farming operations and after marriage, the farming operations remain separate.
Under the Harkin draft, a married couple filing a joint tax return showing an average adjusted gross income of $500,000 during the last three years or a single person with a three-year adjusted gross income of $250,000 would not be eligible for commodity subsidies. The House version bans subsidies to individuals with more than $1 million in adjusted gross income.
Conservation programsFor conservation programs, Harkin
would leave the income limit at the current level of $2.5 million and that limit would not apply if 75 percent of the income comes from agriculture.
The House-passed version of the bill also contains payment limitations, but places no limit on marketing loans and would allow spouses to qualify for benefits.
Harkin has taken the position that payment limitations should be less strict on conservation programs because those programs serve public as well as private purposes. The draft would limit Conservation Reserve Program payments to $100,000 and Wetlands Reserve Program payments to $50,000. Conservation Security Program payments would be limited to $35,000 for the first tier and $45,000 for the second tier. Payments under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program would be limited to $450,000 during the life of the farm bill.
The draft also contains a provision that would require the agriculture secretary to permanently reduce a landowner's base acres - those on which payments are made - if the land has been developed for commercial or industrial use, has been subdivided and developed into multiple residential units or other nonfarming uses or is otherwise no longer intended to be used in conjunction with a farming operation.