Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he believes his authority in defining “actively engaged” farming operations has been diminished in the 2014 Farm Bill. At a Senate Ag Committee hearing on Farm Bill implementation, Vilsack told Iowa Senator Charles Grassley that he has limited authority – outside of the broad definition of “family farms.”
Vilsack agreed with Grassley that defining “actively engaged” is about the credibility of the Farm Program to the 99% of Americans that do not farm. He said, “You also have to take a look at ways in which people have been quite creative and ask yourself — is this consistent with what the purpose of these programs are? And, I think the purpose is to reduce the risk of farming so people can stay in the business when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.’ Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow told Vilsack the committee HAS given him the authority to determine ‘actively engaged.’ “I’m confident that you’ll be able to proceed to do that,” said Stabenow. “Some authority, Madam Chair,” Vilsack laughed. She replied, “Well, we’re looking forward to you using the authority you have.” Grassley’s payment limit reforms were left out of the 2014 Farm Bill and he’s looking for assurances from the Secretary to close the loophole which has allowed people who have little to no involvement in a farming operation to benefit.