Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced a bipartisan bill that would place a hard cap on farm payments and close current loopholes to ensure payments flow to working farmers. 

The Rural America Preservation Act of 2012 will restore integrity and fiscal responsibility to federal farm policy during this time of budgetary constraints, and NSAC will be advocating for its inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill.  

The Rural America Preservation Act (RAPA) was previously introduced in June 2011, but key revisions have been made to ensure that the bill is relevant to likely farm bill changes in commodity programs, which will almost certainly include an end to direct payments and enactment of new types of payments to take their place. 

The bill is also sponsored by Senators Brown (D-Ohio), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Enzi (R-Wyo.), Harkin (D-Iowa), and Nelson (D-Neb.).

“This bill is absolutely critical to targeting the expected $5 billion a year in 2012 Farm Bill farm payments to individuals actively involved in farming, with reasonable caps,” said Juli Obudzinski, Policy Associate at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “The current distribution of farm payments, with mega payments to mega farms and absentee passive investors, contributes to farm consolidation and the demise of family farms.  The 2012 Farm Bill should put an end to this abuse."

RAPA is a cost-saving proposal that restores common-sense rules to farm programs.  The bill has two major provisions that, if enacted, will lower the per farm cap on farm commodity program payments and ensure that federal farm payments flow to working farmers.

The first provision would place a hard cap on commodity payments so that no farm couple can receive more than $250,000 per year in farm subsidies, capping payments at $100,000 and loan benefits at $150,000 a year.  Currently, there are much higher statutory limits on payments, and none at all on loan benefits.  This provision is written so that it will apply regardless of any types of new payments Congress may agree to in the new farm bill.

The second provision of this bill will close existing loopholes that allow mega farms to collect far higher payments than current law would otherwise seem to allow.  Current law contains a vague and unenforceable regulatory standard for “actively managing” farm operations that has foiled all attempts to target payments to working farmers.  The bill addresses this by strictly limiting the circumstances under which individuals providing only management and no farm labor can benefit.