EWG: Mega-Farms Reap Billions from Taxpayers in Farm Subsidies

Farm Subsidy Database Updated with Latest USDA Payment Data

WASHINGTON – Farming operations directly received more than $14 billion in taxpayer-funded commodity subsidies in 2015 and 2016, according to the latest analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture data obtained by Environmental Working Group.

EWG estimates that taxpayers also provided farmers more than $11 billion in crop insurance premium support in 2015 and 2016, but federal law prohibits the USDA from disclosing crop insurance data by recipient.

The 2017 update of EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database once again confirms that the lion’s share of farm subsidies for “covered commodities” like corn and soybeans are flowing to the nation’s largest and most successful farm operations.

Between 1995 and 2016, the top 10 percent received 77 percent of all “covered commodity” subsidies, EWG found. The top 1 percent received 26 percent of all subsidies, or $1.7 million per recipient.

The top recipient of “covered commodity” subsidies was Deline Farms Partnership, which received more than $4 million in 2016. By contrast, the median household income in Charleston, Mo., where Deline Farms is based, is $27,000.

In general, very large commercial farms report median household incomes of $1.1 million, according to USDA data.

“If Congress is serious about reducing the deficit, reducing farm subsidies to millionaires would be a good place to start,” said Anne Weir Schechinger, EWG's senior economics analyst. "Instead, some members of Congress are instead proposing to cut funding for food stamps – part of the 2014 Farm Bill that actually cost less than advertised.”

Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis showing that the projected cost to taxpayers of farm subsidy programs from 2016 to 2018 is roughly $7.5 billion more than the CBO predicted when the current farm bill was enacted in 2014.

By contrast, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, will cost almost $19 billion less than the CBO predicted for the same period.

In particular, two farm subsidy programs cost more than expected. The Agricultural Risk Coverage program pays farmers when revenues drop below a guaranteed level. The Price Loss Coverage program pays farmers when crop prices drop below a target price set by Congress. In 2016, farmers got $8 billion through those two programs.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and Ron Kind, D-Wisc., have proposed legislation to cap all farm subsidies, subject all farm subsidies to a means test, and require the USDA to disclose the names of all farm subsidy recipients.

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