NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Farming For Government Checks?

September 14, 2001

Almost two-thirds of the $27 billion in federal farm subsidies doled out last year went to 10 percent of America's farm owners, including multimillion-dollar corporations and government agencies.

According to an Associated Press analysis of more than 22 million checks sent out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in fiscal year 2000:

  • Some 63 percent of the money went to the top 10 percent of recipients.
  • Taxpayer money flowed to wealthy people, such as media mogul Ted Turner, pro basketball star Scottie Pippen and an heir to the Rockefeller fortune.
  • Some of the wealthiest members of Congress received aid from farm programs they voted for.
  • At least 20 Fortune 500 companies and more than 1,200 universities and government farms, including state prisons, received checks from federal programs ostensibly created to aid needy farmers.

Government aid made up almost half of total farm income nationwide last year. However, the rules base subsidy payments on farm acreage, rather than financial need.

  • Of the 1.6 million farm aid recipients last year, the average recipient got about $16,000.
  • About 57,500 recipients got more than $100,000, and at least 154 got more than $1 million.
  • Because recipients can receive payments under several different names, it is likely there are many more who passed the million-dollar mark.

In the last three years, with prices for commodity crops tumbling to near-record lows, Congress passed a series of multi-billion dollar bailouts. As a result, farm subsidies predicted to decline under the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act instead exploded.

Source: John Kelly (Associated Press), "Corporations, agencies get lion's share of farm subsidies," Kansas City Star, September 9, 2001.


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