U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, co-authored a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to use his authority to limit payments out of the Farm Bill to those “actively engaged in farming.”

In the letter, Grassley bemoaned “passive investors and mega-farms” who use loopholes in the annual farm bill to line their pockets with the federal agriculture safety net money.

“The farm safety net in this country was never intended to maximize government payments or cover every bushel of every commodity on every acre,” the letter read. “The support programs are intended to provide support to working farmers to protect against low prices or yields and to provide enough support that if a farmer has a bad year, that farmer can survive to plant again the next year.”

Grassley’s letter — co-authored by Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, of Nebraska — claimed Perdue had the authority, under the Actively Engaged in Farming final rule of 2015, which provided a quantifiable test of a payment recipient’s participation in farm management.

“I think what he’s up to is, there’s a lot of investors who put money into farming and collect federal money against it,” said Dubuque County Farm Bureau President Craig Recker. “But they aren’t actually farmers. They just bought into it.”

Recker said he supported Grassley’s intentions.

“I would be in favor of that,” he said. “If the majority of your income doesn’t come from ag — crops or livestock — you shouldn’t get that money. At least 60 to 70% of your income should come from farming.”

Recker said that sort of loophole spelunking isn’t common in Dubuque County, but that he has seen a few examples of folks who own businesses in other industries buying into farms and never touching a tractor.

“The biggest problem is those type of guys are making all sorts of money from other things, but if you’re trying to actually make a living farming, they’re coming up against you,” he said. “This is a tax write-off for some of them, but you have trouble trying to compete.”

The communication from Grassley mirrors amendments he’s tried attaching to the last two farm bills, each removed before the bills passed the senate.

FOX NEWS DUBUQUE TOWN HALL WINS RATINGS RACE

Fox News Channel’s Sunday town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., at the University of Dubuque beat several competing candidate town halls on CNN the same night.

The broadcast from Dubuque averaged 834,000 viewers in its 7 to 8 p.m. (ET) block. That topped each of CNN’s three town halls with Democratic presidential candidates and U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, Seth Moulton and Eric Swalwell.

Ryan’s averaged 374,000 in the same time block as Gillibrand’s on Fox. Airing an hour earlier, Moulton’s drew 368,000 on CNN. Swalwell’s attracted 401,000 from 8 to 9 p.m. on CNN.

Gillibrand on Fox also beat Ryan on CNN in the sought-after 25-to-54 demographic, with 92,000 watching Fox and 84,000 watching CNN.

However, more people — 631,000 — were watching MSNBC than watching Ryan’s town hall on CNN as well.

Gillibrand’s Fox town hall also beat out her earlier town hall on CNN, which averaged 507,000 viewers. But that aired in the 10 to 11 p.m. slot and Gillibrand has had two months more to build her name.

LARSON BACKS BERNIE FOR 2020

Dubuque City Council Member Kate Larson joined a list of elected, party and nonprofit leaders from across Iowa to endorse U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in his second bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

“He’s been a lifelong champion of issues I care about and people across the country care about,” Larson said Thursday. “His passion has inspired me and people all over the country to take part and make government work for them.”

No other Dubuque city official has endorsed a presidential primary candidate as yet.

ELECTION TAMPERING DEFENSE BILL

Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, has picked up the torch of Grassley in pushing a bill to stop election tampering like that by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Durbin introduced the Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes Act this year with Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina. It was first introduced and amended by Grassley, then Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to authorize the deportation of foreign nationals already in the U.S. and engaged in election interference.

Durbin included Grassley’s past amendment in the bill this year.

“In 2016, Russia committed an act of cyber war against our country,” Durbin said in a release. “Unfortunately, Congress has done little to prevent efforts by Russia or others to influence and disrupt the 2020 elections. But the Senate took a positive step by passing my bipartisan DETER Act, which would prohibit foreigners who improperly interfere in our elections from coming to the United States to further their schemes, and bar them from entering our country in the future.”

Grassley co-sponsored the bill, but no longer sits on the Judiciary Committee.

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