NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Farming Sector May Be Most Welfare-Dependent Industry in America

December 17, 2001

This week, the Senate will vote on a farm bill which will be far and away the most expensive ever -- $170 billion over 10 years. It comes just five years after the Freedom to Farm Act, which was supposed to wean farmers off subsidies. Its effect was just the reverse.

  • Even though farmers have higher average incomes than do nonfarm taxpaying households, since 1980 they have received $200 billion in direct taxpayer assistance -- enough to buy every acre of farmland in America west of the Mississippi River.
  • Farm subsidies now average out to roughly $200,000 in welfare payments to each recipient.
  • This doesn't include the billions of dollars in emergency taxpayer aid farmers receive nearly every late summer and fall to compensate them for every conceivable natural and manmade disaster -- floods, droughts, tornadoes, hail, the Asian market meltdown, the strong dollar, European trade restrictions and so on.
  • Since the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act was passed, federal farm payments have increased from $7.3 billion to $22.9 billion last year.

In the early 1990s, only about 18 cents of every dollar farmers earned came from government payments. But over the period 1998-2000, agriculture price supports accounted for 35 cents of every dollar of farm income.

Source: Stephen Moore (Club for Growth), "Food Fight on Capitol Hill," Washington Times, December 17, 2001.


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