Stabenow, Grassley press USDA on farm payments to deceased farmers | TSLN.com

Stabenow, Grassley press USDA on farm payments to deceased farmers

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on Wednesday asked the administrator of the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency to answer questions about how USDA is handling farm program payments that are made to the estates of deceased farmers.

"We must be careful stewards of taxpayer money and work to avoid wasteful payments," said Stabenow and Grassley. "As we prepare to write the next farm bill, we write to request information so we can understand more about USDA payments to an estate after the death of a farmer."

The senators noted, "Under current law, farmers are required to be 'actively engaged in farming' in order to receive farm program benefits by providing labor or management."

"USDA recently issued guidance that considers an estate to be actively engaged — and thus eligible for farm payments — for up to two years after the death of a farmer without review," they noted. "The Government Accountability Office has criticized USDA payments to estates which have allowed some heirs to game the system and evade payment limits by collecting benefits on behalf of the deceased in addition to their own property."

–The Hagstrom Report