25 current members of the House collected $14 million in federal farm subsidies

Dozens of House lawmakers and their immediate family members, including eight members of the House Agriculture Committee or their family members, received over $14 million in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2021, according to updated data in EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database.

Those same members will be helping to draft this year’s farm bill, through which federal farm subsidies are allocated.

EWG’s updated Farm Subsidy Database identifies 25 members of the current House who individually or whose their families have received subsidies of widely varying amounts – in some cases, millions of dollars – over the 27 years for which information is available. For the complete list of current members of Congress and family members who have received farm subsidies, click here.

Overall, eight representatives or their family members received funds from the Market Facilitation Program, or MFP, created by the Trump administration in 2019 to offset the effects of the administration’s trade war with China. Twelve representatives or their families received funds from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, created in 2020 to help farmers through the Covid-19 pandemic. The representatives and their families also received federal disaster payments.

The eight House Agriculture Committee members who individually or whose immediate family received payments are Reps. James Baird (R-Ind.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Tracey Mann (R-Ks.), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), John Rose (R-Tenn.), and Austin Scott (R-Ga.)

In several cases, members of Congress or their immediate family have not received subsidies in recent years. For example, the farm once owned by the family of Rep. Scott has not received subsidies since 2018. Some members of Congress, including Rep. Costa, reorganized their farms so they would no longer directly receive subsidies.

The data are drawn from Department of Agriculture subsidy records and additional information from the members’ public financial disclosures. Some members’ disclosures say how much of their family’s farm operation they control, but in other cases that information was not available.

Windfalls for members of Congress

The biggest windfall from taxpayers’ pocketbooks went to the family of Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), whose farms took in nearly $3.5 million in commodity subsidies for dairy, cotton, wheat, corn and livestock. Valadao owns the majority share of four family dairy farms. His businesses also received nearly $400,000 in MFP payments and $1.2 million in CFAP payments.  

The second-largest congressional recipient was the family of Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.), whose family farm received over $3.4 million in commodity payments for cotton, wheat, corn and barley. Nickel Family LLC also received just under $500,000 in CFAP payments.

According to his publicly disclosed financial records, Nickel has financial interests in his family’s agribusiness operation and has gotten income from the business in dividends. The records do not say what share of the business he holds. But they do show that Nickel’s net worth is in the millions.

Many members of Congress who received significant amounts of commodity subsidies or disaster payments are also millionaires:

  • Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who through his spouse and businesses took in more than $3.8 million in commodity and disaster payments for cotton, soybeans, wheat, corn and sorghum. This included $12,529 in CFAP payments. Aderholt had an estimated net worth of over $6.3 million as of 2018.
  • LaMalfa, whose family business got more than $5.5 million in commodity subsidies for rice and wheat, including $54,105 in MFP payments and $36,371 in CFAP payments. LaMalfa had an estimated net worth of nearly $3.5 million as of 2018.
  • Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), whose family business brought in over $300,000 in commodity and disaster payments for wheat, corn, and soybean. This included $252,786 in MFP and CFAP payments. Spartz had an estimated net worth of over $1 million as of 2022.

Seven other lawmakers – Reps. Lucas, Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), August Pfluger (R-Texas), Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), Tracey Mann (R-Kan.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) – or their families each received more than $100,000 in USDA payments between 1995 and 2021. 

Eight first-year members of Congress or their immediate family collectively received $3.4 million in federal farm subsidies.

It is likely that all the lawmakers who received commodity subsidies are also eligible for crop insurance subsidies. But because those subsidies are not disclosed to the public, it’s not possible to determine whether some legislators are double dipping this way.

 

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