WASHINGTON – A Trump administration proposal could force 750,000 low-income Americans to lose their meager federal food assistance – a cruel contrast to federal farm subsidies, which tens of thousands of farmers have received every year for more than three decades.
The Department of Agriculture is seeking to throw unemployed “able-bodied adults without dependents” out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program if they’re unable to find work or job training within three months. According to the nonpartisan think tank, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the average benefit last year through SNAP, formerly called food stamps, was $126 a month.
In October, an EWG analysis of USDA farm subsidy payment information found more than 25,000 people who received taxpayer-funded federal farm subsidies or disaster relief payments every year between 1985 and 2017. Some repeat subsidy recipients live in waterfront mansions or other homes worth millions of dollars.
More than 28,000 Americans have filed comments on the USDA proposal, overwhelmingly opposing the cuts. The comment period for the proposed rule closes today, April 2.
“The comments make it clear that most Americans not only oppose but are utterly repulsed by this plan to punish the poorest among us by denying them help to feed themselves,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Instead of making already struggling Americans suffer even more, we urge President Trump to cut off the farm subsidy spigot of taxpayer money flowing into the brimming bank accounts of millionaires.”
The SNAP work requirements already exist, but states can waive those conditions for places where the unemployment rate is 7 percent or higher. The Trump plan would make it much harder for states to make such exceptions. But unlike the SNAP program, hefty farm subsidies have no work requirements for those who receive them.
EWG’s analysis of USDA records found that in 2017 alone, one New Mexico farm hauled in more than $2 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies. Another example: From 1985 to 2016, Raymond Armbruster, of Osprey, Fla., received a payment every year, while living in a beachfront mansion that, according to Zillow, recently sold for $6.85 million. Armbruster received $839,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2017.
Last year Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the latest federal farm bill. For the first time, it allows nieces, nephews and cousins of current subsidy recipients to collect up to $125,000 each year themselves in farm subsidies – even if they do not live or work on the farm.
“USDA should get out of the business of padding the wallets of millionaires with taxpayer money,” said Faber. “Mega-farm operators and wealthy city slickers don’t need huge checks from Uncle Sam when many of our fellow Americans can’t afford enough to eat.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.