USDA to Stop Handing Out Farm Subsidies to Anyone Not ‘Actively Engaged’ in Farming

Until now, farm subsidies have been available to many people who have never set foot on a farm

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The USDA will reconsider exactly who is eligible for a farm subsidy. 

The United States Department of Agriculture will soon stop providing farm subsidies for anyone who is not “actively engaged” in farming, a loophole which has allowed “wealthy executives, celebrities, and others to get subsidies even if they never set foot on a farm or don’t need the taxpayer-funded assistance,” simply by engaging in so-called general partnerships with actual farmers, reports Politico.

The new guidelines, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Politico, will require the organization to define exactly who qualities as a farmer, and give those rightful beneficiaries access to billions in farm subsidies.

“The reality is that this has been a loophole that has been utilized by folks in [business] partnerships to allow for many, many, many people to qualify as actively engaged [in farming] when in fact they might only be engaged in a conference call or in a very narrow sense participating in decision-making in a farming operation,” said Vilsack. “We will close that loophole to the extent that we can.”

Among those who currently receive farm subsidies include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, according to an Environmental Working Group report.

“I think you’ll probably see a lot of folks who in the past have been in an office in, say, a big city, who had an interest in a farming operation for tax purposes who will not be getting the benefits that they got before,” Vilsack told Politico.

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