Congress will soon be pushing the renewal of massive agriculture subsidies in a new one trillion-dollar farm bill that is 80% food stamps, using the worn out mantra that it is a “crucial safety net” for struggling family farms.
In truth – some thing that is truly lacking in Congress – these subsidies do not go to struggling family farms – they buy votes and campaign contributions, as well as line Congressional pockets and the pockets of their cronies and corporate farms.
So who actually benefits from these subsidies if not struggling family farms?
Only five crops — corn, cotton, rice wheat and soybeans — account for 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Sixty-two percent of American farmers do not receive any direct payments from the federal farm subsidy system, and that group includes most livestock producers, fruit and vegetable growers.
Among the members of the 112th Congress who collected payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans.
From 1995 through 2012, former President Jimmy Carter, whose net worth is around $5 million milked taxpayers out of $272,288 for Carter’s Farms, Inc. Democrat Thomas J. Vilsack, appointed as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in 2009, who at that time reported a net worth of up to $1.3 million, received $82,874 in USDA benefits for his 592 acres farm in Iowa from 2000 through 2012. And let’s not forget USDA Undersecretary, Michael T. Scuse who owns only 20.8% of a farm in New Castle County, Delaware, and still managed to milk taxpayers out of $1,051,107 from 1995 through 2012.
The Rockefeller’s, who own Chase Manhattan Bank and Standard Oil among others, benefit from these “family farm” subsidies as well. Mark F. Rockefeller, between 2001 and 2012 took home $356,018 while David Rockefeller, milked taxpayers out of $591,057 between 1996 and 2012.
The estate of Jack Benny in Beverly Hills, California, collected $18,120 for a farm in Madera County. Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America in 1959, has managed to collect $142,933 for a farm in Madison County, Mississippi.
Lynda Lucas, wife of House Agriculture Committee chairman, Frank Lucas, Republican from Oklahoma collected $40,613 for their farm in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma. Senator Charles Grassley, Republican from Iowa milked taxpayers out of $955,192 between 1995 and 2012 for his family farm. Grassley, by the way, has served on the Agriculture Committee since 1992. In 2010 Grassley reported his net worth between $1.6 to $4.7 million.
Two other members of the Agriculture Committee managed to line their pockets as well. Congressman Stephen Fincher, Republican from Tennessee, received $70,574 in subsides in 2012 and managed to amass a total of $3.4 million since 1995. Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Republican from California, got $188,570 in 2012 and a total of $5.1 million since 1995.
The top recipient of subsides is Riceland Foods, who touts themselves as “the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice.” They collected $554,343,039 between 1995 and 2012, while reporting sales of $1.16 billion during 2011-2012, the fifth consecutive year of billion plus revenue.
And, there is nothing like selling your principles for a piece of the taxpayer pie. The Nature Conservancy accumulated a whopping $4.8 million between 1995 and 2012 despite its own admission that these subsidies promote the conversion of natural habitat to cropland, threatening wildlife in the process. The National Audubon Society also milked taxpayers out of $932,801 between 1995 and 2012.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that two-thirds of the farms with income exceeding one million dollars in annual income averaged government subsidies of $54,745 in 2011, while farms with income averaging less than one hundred thousand dollars a year receive subsidies averaging around $4,420 in 2011.