Policy Issue: Facts About Agricultural Subsidies – Are They Worth It?

The following information on farm subsidies was compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Although it is a presentation of factual data, it clearly reflects the organization's own opinion about farm subsidies. For alternative points of view, see an article on the benefits of subsidies here, and an article criticizing EWG's publication of personal information here. For an overview of policy related to farm subsidies CLICK HERE.

Agricultural Subsidy Facts: Compiled by the Environmental Working Group - available on their Farm Subsidy Database

• $177.6 billion in subsidies 1995-2006. • 67 percent of all farmers and ranchers do not collect government subsidy payments in United States, according to USDA. • Among subsidy recipients, ten percent collected 74 percent of all subsidies amounting to $130.6 billion over 12 years. • Recipients in the top 10% averaged $36,290 in annual payments between 1995 and 2006. The bottom 80 percent of the recipients saw only $731 on average per year.

The Following is a list of the top 12 crop/program subsidy recipients (1995-2006), each of which received over $1 billion in subsidies over those 10 years. The list names the crop (or program) followed by the number of recipients/ the total $ paid out over the 10 year period.

1 Corn Subsidies 1,568,095 / $56,170,875,257
2 Wheat Subsidies 1,308,268 / $22,051,566,200
3 Cotton Subsidies 247,879 / $21,329,862,262
4 Conservation Reserve Program 768,180 / $20,337,282,263
5 Disaster Payments 1,246,432 / $15,114,518,393
6 Soybean Subsidies 985,712 / $14,239,702,740
7 Rice Subsidies 65,533 / $11,043,795,298
8 Sorghum Subsidies 586,766 / $4,569,912,363
9 Dairy Program Subsidies 151,737 / $3,560,356,847
10 Livestock Subsidies 754,842 / $2,908,502,988
11 Peanut Subsidies 89,463 / $2,609,286,072
12 Barley Subsidies 337,812 / $1,962,025,270


Amidst Record 2007 Crop Prices and Farm Income Washington Delivers $5 Billion in Subsidies (Article Highlights)

Ken Cook and Chris Campbell, Environmental Working Group, Full article HERE

By any measure, 2007 was a banner year for farmers of grain, soybeans and cotton, as high prices for their crops earned them record net income, even after they paid skyrocketing costs for fuel, fertilizer and seed. But under formulas set by Congress in the 2002 farm law, taxpayers topped off the record farm earnings of 2007 with another $5 billion in "direct payment" crop subsidies. The names of the direct payment subsidy recipients and the amount they received in 2007 were released online today by Environmental Working Group. Topping the list of direct payment subsidies are 5,125 recipients who collected over $60,000 in 2007, an amount roughly equivalent to average U.S. household income in 2006 ($66,000, the latest year available)). The cost to taxpayers was $537 million.

The top direct payment recipient in 2007 was a Sandridge Partners, a complex business of interlocking companies, trusts and individual owners with its business office in Sunnyvale, California, a suburban community in Silicon Valley south of San Francisco better known for high-tech firms and venture capitalists. Sandridge, which USDA records show operates in four counties, collected $1,064,134 in direct payment subsidies in 2007 for seven different crops, but most of the subsidy was for cotton.

Direct payment subsidies are provided without regard to the economic need of the recipients or the financial condition of the farm economy. Established in 1996, direct payments were originally meant to wean farmers off traditional subsidies that are triggered during periods of low prices for corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice and other crops.

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