Friday, October 05, 2007

When Is a Farmer a Farmer?

When he's a Fairfax trial lawyer earning $500 an hour and a candidate for county supervisor?

The Post reported yesterday Gary Baise collected $300,000 in program payments 1995-2005:
"Baise's farm, where he grew up, is operated by John Werries, whose brother Larry was a high school friend of Baise's and former Illinois director of agriculture. Baise said he makes all decisions on planting, marketing and sales, and visits five to 10 times a year. The acreage is evenly divided between corn and soybeans."
I wonder what it would do if payments were restricted to those living on the farm? (Baise says he doesn't like the program. He can't be fairly criticized for taking advantage of it. )


Anonymous said...

A major feature of the Dorgan-Grassley payment limits bill is a tightening of the rules requiring farm program payment recipients to be "actively engaged" in farming. Current USDA interpretation of the law allows individuals who participate in a single conference call each year to be considered "actively engaged" due to their participation in a "significant management decision".

The Dorgan-Grassley bill, which is almost certain to be a floor amendment in the Senate, would require 1,000 hours of labor per year to be considered actively engaged. This would ensure that those receiving farm program payments are actually farmers.

Requiring that recipients live on the land is appealing and has been proposed before, but it runs into problems. For example, a family has farmland and ownership is divided among 3 siblings. One sibling farms all 3 parcels because the other two have moved away. In this not-uncommon scenario, should the sibling only be eligible for payments on the parcel he owns and lives on? That's a tough sell politically and probably not very good policy either.

No matter how you structure it, though, this attorney shouldn't be getting payments.

Dan Owens
Center for Rural Affairs

Bill Harshaw said...

The Dorgan-Grassley bill is S-1486, findable by searching on