Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, before the House Agricultural Committee hearing to review the state of the rural economy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, before the House Agricultural Committee hearing to review the state of the rural economy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, before the House Agricultural Committee hearing to review the state of the rural economy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Politico) – 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.

USDA will soon issue its proposed rule for qualifying who is “actively engaged” in farming, making them eligible for some of the billions paid each year to farm families across the U.S. to support them in tough times when crop prices or farm revenues are low, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told POLITICO in an exclusive interview this week.

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