Policy Plate: $6.2 million to Members of Congress or Their Family Members
Environmental Working Group’s latest update of the EWG farm subsidy database shows that 23 members of Congress, or their family members, benefitted from $6,199,807 in taxpayer-funded farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2011.
“Members of Congress who receive farm subsidies are part of a system that cries out for reform and poses stark choices between propping up the largest and most successful businesses or helping working farmers, struggling families and the environment,” stated Craig Cox, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at EWG.
According to EWG’s analysis of the data, derived from U.S. Department of Agriculture records, among those members of the House of Representatives who received substantial subsidies were:
• Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. and his wife received $3,528,295
• Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D received $480,790
• Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa received $332,446
The distribution of subsidies among lawmakers reflects the highly distorted distribution of farm subsidies in the U.S. Just five crops – corn, cotton, rice wheat and soybeans – account for 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Since 1995, just 10 percent of subsidized farms have raked in 75 percent of all subsidy payments.
“Farm subsidy payments continue to be concentrated both geographically and within the largest and most highly profitable farms,” said Cox.
The same congressional families that benefitted from farm subsidies have likely received crop insurance premium subsidies too. That question cannot be answered until Congress changes the law that bars the federal government from releasing recipients’ names.
“We hope there will be a debate in the House to increase transparency for insurance subsidies,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at EWG. “The names of recipients should not be a state secret.”
The Times Ledger looks at what the defeat of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s, D-N.Y., amendment will mean for struggling families in New York.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., a former secretary of agriculture, told Bloomberg BNA (subscription required) that he had confidence in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to enact conservation compliance policy. “If the USDA implements this in a thoughtful, rational way, it'll be fine. I think this will work,” said Johanns.
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