NFU says current USDA ‘actively engaged’ proposal not strong enough
WASHINGTON – On May 26, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged the U.S. Department Of Agriculture (USDA) to strengthen payment limitations and payment eligibility for certain USDA farm programs.
“Our grassroots policy has long held that the primary objectives of national agricultural policy should be to enable family farmers to significantly increase net farm income, improve the quality of rural life, and increase the number of family farmers so farmers may continue to provide a reliable supply of food, fiber, feed and fuel and serve as stewards of our nation’s resources,” said Johnson in comments submitted for a proposed rule to the Farm Service Agency (FSA). “NFU supports the direction of farm program benefits to family farm producers in such a way as to reduce government costs while fortifying the sustainability of our family farms, our rural communities and our natural resources.”
Johnson pointed out that payment limits which are meaningful, realistic and targeted to farmers who are “actively engaged” in farming could reap significant savings for the government, while at the same time protecting family farms.
The proposed rule classifies active personal management as the contribution of 500 hours of management or at least 25 percent of the total management required for a given operation annually. In its comments NFU concludes that this “Actively Engaged” proposal was not forceful enough, provided avenues for entities to circumvent the intended impact and allowed for too many qualified managers. NFU proposes that a non-family farm should not be allowed to exceed two eligible managers under any scenario, and each manager must be subject to the definition of “actively engaged.” NFU further proposes that the rule should not only apply to non-family farms, but to family farm operations as well.
“NFU prides itself on being the voice of family farming. Even though we believe that farm benefits should be directed towards family farms, we do not believe that those benefits should be limitless,” said Johnson. “We find the “Actively Engaged” threshold to be very modest and reasonable. Families provide the base of labor for family farms, and, given this modest threshold, we believe that the true managers of these operations will have no trouble qualifying as an actively engaged manager.”