There are only a few hours left to convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture to end one of the most noxious aspects of mainstream commercial farming in America today: Massive payments to corporate farms that don’t need them. Known as direct payments, they now total $5.2 billion a year and, because the original legislation was so poorly drafted, are paid regardless of crop prices and are not tied to need. Corporate farms are using this taxpayer-funded bounty to outbid small farms–family farms–for land. President Obama has proposed phasing out direct payments, an action he says will save us $9.8 billion over 10 years.
Through the end of Monday, April 6, the USDA is taking comments on a rule to limit farm payment. Food Democracy Now, the group that spearheaded the campaign to get organic food friend Kathleen Merrigan named to the USDA, has provided a sample letter, which I am reproducing below. Don’t think that someone else will send in this letter and so you don’t need to. Every voice is critical for any to be heard! Please feel free to add your own sentiment and personalize the letter below before you send it.
Sample Letter – (Please cut and paste)
Mr. Dan McGlynn
Stop 0517, Room 4754
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250-0517
Emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or FAX to: 202-690-2130
RE: Comment on Farm Program Payment Limitation Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 23, February 5, 2009
Dear Mr. McGlynn,
I appreciate President Obama’s courageous call for subsidy reform and stand firmly behind his decision to end “direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them.” By reforming the rules on subsidy payments to farmers, this Administration can finally create a level playing field for independent family farmers that allows them to thrive, and grows opportunities for rural America and midsized farms.
In order to do this, I encourage the USDA to close the biggest payment loophole available under the current rules by providing a strong and effective definition for those “actively engaged in agriculture”.
Currently, wealthy corporate “partners” with minimal management involvement, in some cases, as little as two conference calls per year can qualify for payments. I urge you to correct this problem.
For those who qualify solely by providing active personal management and no personal labor, the rule should require that person to:
1. Provide at least half of the total management required to run the farm; or
2. Provide at least half of the total management that would be necessary to conduct a farming operation commensurate in size with his/her requisite share of the operation.
Closing the “actively engaged in farming” management loophole will strengthen family farms and rural communities and help restore integrity to a program which is rife with abuse.
Sadly, for decades, both Republican and Democratic Administrations have allowed this abuse to continue. This Administration, which campaigned on commodity program payment reform, needs to end business as usual, clean up the system, and restore good government. Enacting a quantifiable test for farm management is the best place to start.
[Your name & city here]