Last day for comments on closing corporate farm subsidy loophole (updated)

UPDATE: According to Food Democracy Now, the relevant USDA official’s e-mail inbox is full and bouncing back messages.

Please send you comments to: Dan McGlynn via Mara Villegas at: mara.villegas@wdc.usda.gov

[…]

At this point you can do 1 of 3 things:

1. You can resend your comments to mara.villegas@wdc.usda.gov

2. Fax the letter in at: (202) 690-2130

3. Go to Regulation.gov and send your letter in using that website form.

http://www.regulations.gov/fdm…

If you go to Regulations.gov please realize that it is a several step process in order to submit your comments.

We have provided the proper steps to follow on our website.

http://www.fooddemocracynow.or…

Thanks again for all you do, we appreciate your continued efforts on this important subject.

I received an e-mail alert from Food Democracy Now today, informing me that the public comment period for a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture rule on farm payment limits ends at the close of business on Monday, April 6.

President Barack Obama promised during his budget speech to a joint session of Congress in February to “end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them.” Food Democracy Now’s action alert noted,

As part of his 2010 budget, the President proposed phasing-out direct payments in an attempt to save $9.8 billion over 10 years. Currently direct payments, which total $5.2 billion a year, are paid regardless of crop prices and are not tied to need.

This means: Even in times of high commodity prices, corporate farmers still get a paycheck from the government.

End Unfair Subsidies Now!

In mentioning unfair agribusiness subsidies, the President let supporters and agribusiness know that he’s serious about defending the rights of family farmers and giving them access to fair market conditions.

Today’s current subsidy system allows large corporate farms to take advantage of subsidy loopholes that place independent family farmers at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Because of loosely written management and labor requirements in the Farm Bill, corporate farmers are allowed to use multiple partnerships, passive investors and sham “paper” farms to funnel huge multimillion dollar annual subsidy payments to corporate entities that don’t do any real work on the farm, but use the ownership as an entitlement to bilk payments from the government.

As a result, giant corporate millionaire “farmers” are driving independent family farmers off the land, using their ill-gotten gains, supplied courtesy of taxpayers, to outbid small, midsized and new farmers who want to buy or rent new crop ground.

Food Democracy Now provided a sample e-mail that you can cope and paste into your own message. I’ve posted it after the jump, and you can also find it here.

If you can put the message in your own words, that’s wonderful, but any comment you can send by the close of business on Monday is better than nothing.

However you write the main text of your message, put this in the subject line:

Comment on Farm Program Payment Limitation Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 23, February 5, 2009

COMMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY THE CLOSE OF BUSINESS APRIL 6, 2009

Send an email to Dan McGlynn at the USDA: dan.mcglynn@wdc.usda.gov

Sample Letter – (Please cut and paste)

Mr. Dan McGlynn

FSA-USDA

Stop 0517, Room 4754

1400 Independence Ave. SW

Washington, DC  20250-0517

Emailed to: Dan.McGlynn@wdc.usda.gov

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.

Sincerely,

[Your name & city here]

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