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AgMag BLOG

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It’s Time to End Secret Subsidies

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How many members of Congress receive farm subsidies? If the House adopts an amendment to the farm bill requiring disclosure of subsidy recipients, including those who get crop insurance subsidies, we’ll finally get to know.

While we do know which legislators (and others) have collected direct payments, conservation payments and disaster payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we don’t know who’s gotten crop insurance subsidies.

That’s because back in 2000, Congress voted to prohibit the USDA from disclosing that information.

So we know that the farm partnership that includes Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) received $188,570 in direct payments in 2012.

But we don’t know how much he received in crop insurance subsidies.

We also know that the farm partnership that includes Rep. Steven Fincher (R-Tenn.) collected more than $70,000 in direct payments, a subsidy that would have been paid regardless of whether he needed it or even harvested a single crop.

But we don’t know how much he has received in crop insurance subsidies.

We know, too, that the wife of Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) collected $14,584 in disaster payments in 2012.

But we don’t know how much she took in as crop insurance subsidies, if any.

Many other members of Congress own farms that are not eligible for direct payments but may be eligible for crop insurance subsidies, including other members of the Agriculture Committee. 

According to their financial disclosure forms, some members, such Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), have an interest in a farm but don’t appear in EWG’s farm subsidy database. Other members who own interests in farms but do not receive traditional subsidies include Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). 

Both Harper and Huelskamp, dedicated fiscal conservatives, may well be benefitting from crop insurance subsidies.

But we don’t know.

Members of Congress aren’t the only well-heeled Americans who may benefit from the $9 billion-a-year crop insurance program.

Celebrities who own farms include Rosanne BarrMartha Stewart and Tom Selleck.

These “farmers” don’t grow the “covered commodities” that are eligible for traditional subsidies, but their farms may grow crops that qualify for crop insurance premium support.

The bottom line is that we just don’t know.

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) want to find out which members of Congress receive any kind of farm subsidies. They have filed an amendment to the House farm bill, which is under consideration today, to change the 2000 crop insurance law that prohibits USDA from telling us which members of Congress and senior Administration officials receive crop insurance subsidies.

Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) would go further. Their amendment lets us know the names of everyone who receives crop insurance subsidies.

It’s your money. You have a right to know.