Sen. Feingold Introduces Small Farmer, Taxpayer, Water Resource Protection Bill

US Fed News

Published May 24, 2005

The office of Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., issued the following press release:

Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced legislation that could help save $2.5 billion over the next five years. Feingold's bill would reform a federal irrigation subsidy program that has been exploited by large agribusiness in order to keep on receiving subsidies. The legislation would reform the 1982 Reclamation Reform Act to require a means test to qualify for federal irrigation subsidies to ensure that small family farmers, not huge agribusinesses, benefit from federal water pricing policies.

"For too long, large agribusinesses, not small family farmers have raked in millions of dollars of federal subsidies through federal water pricing policies" Feingold said. "We need to reform our subsidy programs and close the loopholes that are unfairly giving large agribusiness in select regions of the country even more of a competitive advantage over small family farms, and all at the taxpayers' expense."

According to the General Accounting Office, agribusinesses generally receive the largest amount of federal dollars for cheap water, a rare commodity in the West. A recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit watchdog group, confirmed the assessment by examining water subsidies in the Central Valley Project (CVP) of California. EWG's analysis shows that the median subsidy for CVP farmers is $7,076 a year. Yet, the largest 10 percent of farms receive an average of $349,000 a year in federally subsidized water. One farming business received a whopping $4.2 million in water subsidies in 2002. Meanwhile, many citizens living in the CVP do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Unfortunately, this situation is pervasive in many other Western communities.

"Over the past four years, we have let down future generations by agreeing to some of the most fiscally irresponsible budgets Congress has ever seen," Feingold said. "We need initiatives that seek to curb wasteful spending so our children and grandchildren are not saddled with the record deficits amassed by reckless government spending."

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