USDA Begins Asking the Right Questions

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For years, as the System’s loans to corporate, non-agricultural entities have piled up, many have wondered, what happened to the ‘farm’ in Farm Credit?

While the answer remains elusive, the government this week encouragingly signaled that it is willing to crack down on programs intended to help farmers that have long since run astray. According to Politico’s Bill Thompson:

The Agriculture Department is getting ready to tell a lot of people who’ve been getting farm subsidy checks without lifting a hay bale, swinging a pitch fork or driving a tractor that they’re cut off.

Congress could’ve answered the question of “who is a farmer?” and thus eligible to get payments when it passed the Farm Bill a year ago, but it punted the matter to the USDA.

Wealthy executives, celebrities and others get subsidies even if they never set foot on a farm or don’t need the taxpayer-funded assistance. They include the likes of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, according to an Environmental Working Group report.

Surely, this move doesn’t address the issue of Farm Credit’s documented record of neglect and waste, but it’s a step in the right direction and Secretary Vilsack should be applauded for his bold leadership in this case.

Now we are left to wonder, will Farm Credit receive the same scrutiny?