Arkansas Agribusiness Poised to Reap Millions Under White House-Backed Proposal
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Large agriculture interests across Arkansas are projected to receive more than $210 million in taxpayer dollars under a controversial disaster aid program conceived by Senate Agriculture Committee chair Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and embraced by the White House.
On Aug. 6, after Lincoln’s plan to compensate farmers for 2009 crop losses ran into trouble on Capitol Hill, the White House moved to salvage it – and boost Lincoln’s reelection prospects -- by pledging $1.5 billion in already appropriated funds to underwrite the controversial and unorthodox idea. An analysis by Environmental Working Group has determined that the Lincoln plan would generate a six-figure windfall for hundreds of plantation-scale, highly subsidized rice and cotton farms across the South.
EWG projects that 11 Arkansas farming operations, including Ratio Farms in Helena, Garland Frontier Farms in Garland City, and Wayne Wilkison Farms II in Wynne could rank among the nation’s top 50 beneficiaries of the Lincoln plan. Since 1995, each of these farms received more than three million dollars in federal subsidies.
According to EWG’s calculations, the Lincoln plan could bestow $787,199 to $254,502 in additional public subsidies upon these agribusiness operators.
EWG’s analysis shows that beneficiaries of the Lincoln plan would receive a lucrative taxpayer bailout even if they incurred only minor losses.
Lincoln, who is in a tough fight for reelection, has contended there is nothing partisan or unusual about asking the administration to underwrite her disaster aid program from existing U.S. Department of Agriculture funds.
“People can draw their own conclusions on the timing of the Lincoln bailout plan, but the administration sure has a lot of questions to answer,” said EWG legislative analyst, David DeGennaro. “Taxpayer dollars are a finite resource that should be spent with caution, not tossed around to wealthy agribusiness owners with no regard to need or circumstance, which is exactly what Senator Lincoln is trying to do here.”
Farm leaders in Congress are also worried about the plan. On August 12 Progressive Farmer Magazine reported House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) as telling Lincoln “he is 'not a big fan' of the low threshold for determining eligibility that would require a farmer to have suffered only a 5 percent loss.
"Peterson said that under Lincoln's proposal, USDA would be 'making payments to some producers who do not need it and we will get all sorts of criticism over it, especially when people realize producers in over half of the counties in the United States will qualify to get a supplemental direct payment."
Top 20 Projected Arkansas Recipients and Their Projected Supplemental Disaster Payment
(click for subsidy listing)
Disaster Payment in 2010
|1||Ratio Farms||Helena, AR 72342||$787,199|
|2||Garland Frontier Farms||Garland City, AR 71839||$538,740|
|3||Wayne Wilkison Farms II||Wynne, AR 72396||$386,481|
|4||Benwood Farms||Earle, AR 72331||$369,686|
|5||Djcb Farm Partnership||Marvell, AR 72366||$360,404|
|6||Soudan Farming Co||Marianna, AR 72360||$310,885|
|7||Brantley Farming Co||England, AR 72046||$303,684|
|8||R A Pickens And Son Company||Pickens, AR 71662||$302,203|
|9||G C Farms Partnership||Augusta, AR 72006||$266,450|
|10||Big-mo Farm Partnership||Stuttgart, AR 72160||$255,371|
|11||Agri Ventures||Texarkana, AR 71854||$254,502|
|12||Schenley Farm Ptn||Mer Rouge, LA 71261||$253,659|
|13||Hyco Farms A Partnership||Wynne, AR 72396||$249,514|
|14||Cottonwood Partnership||Brickeys, AR 72320||$243,166|
|15||Cem Partnership||Brickeys, AR 72320||$237,969|
|16||Eifling Farms||Grady, AR 71644||$231,186|
|17||Leslie T Brown Farms||Brinkley, AR 72021||$228,457|
|18||Victoria Partnership||Osceola, AR 72370||$226,748|
|19||Wright Planting Company||Carlisle, AR 72024||$218,299|
|20||Swift Ditch Farms Partnership||Jonesboro, AR 72401||$217,880|
Full list of projected recipients nationwide is available here.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org