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EWG Says California Growers Double-Dipping on Subsidies

Monday, September 21, 2009

Agriculture Online

Published August 2, 2005

The Environmental Working Group today released the results of a computer study that looked at federal crop and water subsidies to California's Central Valley Project. The group says some of America's richest agribusinesses are "double dipping" from US taxpayers' pockets at a rate of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

EWG says thousands of Central Valley farms get inexpensive, taxpayer-subsidized water to grow surplus crops the government then subsidizes with price supports.

The study says roughly a third of the subsidized irrigation water the CVP delivered in 2002 went to grow crops eligible for USDA subsidies. Cotton and rice growers were the biggest subsidy takers, receiving 25% of the irrigation water and 92% of the crop subsidies in the system, EWG says.

Dairy operations, EWG says, go one further - receiving taxpayer-subsidized water to grow corn, for which they receive crop subsidies. They feed the corn to cattle to produce milk, cheese and other products eligible for federal dairy subsidies. All together, they received more than $3 million in combined subsidies in 2002, EWG says.

The report includes lists of the top subsidy recipients and top subsidy water districts.

In 2002, the ten biggest double dippers in California took almost $20 million in water and crop subsidies combined. The five biggest - Dresick Farms of Huron, Burford Ranch of Fresno, Hansen Ranches of Corcoran, Sumner Peck Ranches of Madera, and Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers of Shafter - each received more than $2 million in combined federal subsidies in 2002, EWG says.

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