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Changes made to payment limit and eligibility rules

The USDA is tightening eligibility requirements for individuals getting commodity program payments. The rule published this week is a change made in the 2018 Farm Bill. The final rule allows first cousins, nieces and nephews of farm operators to receive payments, according to Jonathan Coppess, policy specialist at the University of Illinois.

“Members of the family who are participating in the farm can also get their own individual limit,” Coppess told Brownfield Ag News Tuesday, “so the more family members you add through these provisions the more limits the farm overall will have.”

Under the requirements, each recipient has to provide 25 percent of the farm’s management hours or 500 hours annually. Farms with enough sophistication and bookkeeping and legal resources have been able to work the system in their favor, Coppess tells Brownfield.

“We keep tinkering with these rules and the ones that they’re designed to deal with find more ways around it,” said Coppess, “and everybody else kind of gets the 60 Minutes story that paints famers as receiving too much, or the newspaper story that paints farmers as receiving too much.”

The vast majority of farmers receiving federal farm payments, said Coppess, are not represented by the huge farms seen in 60 Minutes stories as gaming the government system.

Jonathan Coppess

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