Good Riddance Direct Payments
This year the farm subsidy lobby appears ready to finally end the direct payment program-ten years later than when the program's 2002 expiration date. We say "good riddance."
Direct payments, originally called "market transition payments" were authorized in the 1996 farm allegedly as temporary cash payments to help producers make the transition to a world with no farm subsidies at all.
Lawmakers promised taxpayers that the payments would decline each year and end completely after five years. But that never happened.
As EWG President Ken Cook pointed out at the time, the reality was that, "The 1996 farm bill would not phase out subsidy programs and at least $4 billion or more would be available for every year after it expired in 2002. In fact, it would make things worse by divorcing payments entirely from market conditions, actual farming activity, and economic need."
He was right. Over $45.6 billion in cash payments have flowed to farm businesses since 2002-regardless of need-mostly to the largest and most profitable farm operations in the country. In 2011, 16 percent of the payments went to the 1 percent of businesses getting the largest payments-on average $77, 833 each. The top 10 percent of farm operations harvesting an average $28,784 each collected 59 percent of all payments that year. Eighty percent of famers each received only $1,364.
Direct payments should have been gone years ago. We say good riddance.Read less
26 Farm Businesses with Over $1 Million in Insurance Subsidies
New data assembled by EWG from over a million government records never before made public and obtained by the Environmental Working Group through the Freedom of Information Act has found that in 2011 more than 10,000 individual farming operations have received federal crop insurance premium subsidies ranging from $100,000 to more than $1 million apiece. Some 26 farming operations received subsidies of $1 million or more last year.Read more
Cost of Crop Insurance Out of Control
The cost of the crop insurance programs has exploded from $2 billion a year in 2002 to $9 billion a year in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the program will cost taxpayers $90 billion over the next ten years. That is far more than the $66 estimates traditional farm subsidies would spend, let alone the $64 billion for chronically underfunded conservation programs.Read more
Note: The information on conservation spending for 2011and 2012 are incomplete due to missing data from USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service. In addition some payments made in 2010 were not assigned to recipients in the data received from NRCS. Those payments are also not included.
The information provided for the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) provides an inaccurate picture of how WRP payments are distributed. USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service uses title companies as intermediaries to finalize wetlands easements under the Wetlands Reserve Program. As a result, the data provided to us shows large sums of money going to these title companies. In reality, the payments are ultimately distributed to landowners participating in the WRP.
Unfortunately, NRCS has not provided the data to show where these farms and wetlands are located or which farmers or landowners are enrolling in the program, so EWG is unable to allocate these large sums of money to individuals beyond the title companies. Therefore, these companies skew the conservation rankings and payment concentration, which EWG cannot avoid unless and until NRCS makes available the additional farm attribution data. Therefore, we have not included WRP payments in the 2011 or 2012 data update.
We have separated data on farm commodity, disaster and conservation payments in order to provide a more accurate picture of top recipients and concentration of payments among the three main categories of USDA programs.
Finally, EWG works hard to ensure the accuracy of the information it provides through its products and services, but obtains data for the Farm Subsidy Database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, EWG cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information USDA provides or any analysis based thereon. If you find an error or discrepancy on the site, please contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency office to check its records before contacting EWG.