The Cash Croppers: Farm Subsidies 1985-1994

The Top Two Percent of America's Farm Subsidy Recipients, 1985-1994

September 2, 1995

The Cash Croppers: Farm Subsidies 1985-1994: Michigan

The Cash Croppers: Michigan

Over the past ten years American taxpayers funneled $2.0 billion to 71,106 Federal farm subsidy recipients in Michigan. But 28.1 percent of those payments -- $573 million -- went to just two percent of those recipients. Among these 1,422 recipients in the top two percent, Federal farm subsidies averaged $44,038 per year of participation. By comparison, the average recipient in Michigan got $6,192 per year.

In addition to receiving more subsidies per year of participation, the top two percent of recipients also enrolled in the subsidy programs more frequently. While the average Michigan recipient was given Federal farm subsidies in 4.6 out of the last ten years, the average rate of participation for those among the top two percent was 9.1 years out of ten.

The combination of higher subsidy payments per year of participation, and the higher rate of participation, earned the top two percent of subsidy recipients in Michigan an average of $402,851 in Federal farm subsidies over the past ten years. That means that the top recipients in the Michigan received 14 times the amount of subsidy payments that went to the average Michigan recipient during the last decade.

Congress should take direct action in 1995 to eliminate such massive taxpayer subsidies to the relative handful of "cash croppers"-- the top 2 percent of America's heavily subsidized farm operators who have drawn huge Federal farm payments over the past decade.

In 1995, overall farm spending should be phased downward. Farm payments should be redirected to mid-size and smaller farmers. And instead of paying billions of dollars to a few thousand corporations, joint ventures and big-time farmers, Congress should invest in health care, education and environmental needs in rural Michigan and rural America generally.

Unfortunately, as the 1995 debate over Federal farm subsidies draws to an end it seems almost certain that Congress will guarantee the status quo, perpetuating extremely high payments to a relative few subsidy recipients in Michigan and in the nation as a whole. For example, the "Freedom to Farm Act," proposed by Rep. Pat Roberts of Kansas, will lock in big bucks subsidies for the largest recipients--the very corporations, joint ventures and industrial-scale operations that have made constant and maximum use of farm subsidy programs over the past decade. At the same time, the Freedom to Farm Act will lock out assistance in Michigan to new farmers and farmers who have relied on subsidy payments less often.

Congress is moving aggressively to slash assistance to poor people, education, and environmental protection. But the Federal farm "cash croppers" in Michigan and other states are likely to emerge from the 1995 budget wars virtually unscathed.