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Senate Votes to Bar Farm Subsidies to Millionaires

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, October 21, 2011

The U.S. Senate voted 84-15 last night to deny farm subsidy payments to millionaires.

“It’s great the Senate has started paying attention to this egregious government giveaway,” said David DeGennaro, Environmental Working Group legislative and policy analyst. “But it’s pathetic if this is as far as the Congress can go.”


The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), would make mostly symbolic changes in the way farm subsidies are distributed. At present, subsidies are denied to individuals who make more than $1,250,000 a year.

The Coburn amendment would lower the bar by just $250,000. EWG takes the position that the upper limit should be $250,000 so that subsidies go to small farmers who truly need financial stability.

Importantly, the Coburn measure would leave intact the loophole that allows each member of a married couple to apply for subsidies up to the maximum. If the amendment were to become law, a couple making as much as $2 million a year would qualify for subsidies, down from the current ceiling of $2.5 million.

Still, says DeGennaro, “The Senate’s passage of the Coburn amendment by an overwhelming bipartisan majority sends a good message to the agriculture committees and the super committee as they draft farm policy reforms over the next month.”

Significantly, nearly half of the members of the Senate agriculture committee, traditionally the strongest supporters of farm subsidies, voted for the amendment, showing that even farm state lawmakers understand the need to impose tighter limits on farm programs.

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