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• The goal of federal farm bills since the first one was passed in 1949 has been to help family farmers stay in business. But according to U.S. Agricultural Census data, more than 60 percent of U.S. small family farmers aren't even eligible for subsidies.

• The number of millionaires receiving farm subsidies rose 28% when Bush took office, while Ken Lay saw his percentage of total farm subsidies rise by 400%. (Source:

• 71 percent of farm subsidies go to the top 10 percent of subsidy beneficiaries, almost all of which are large farms. In 2002, 78 farms, none small or struggling, each received over a million dollars in subsidies. The bottom 80 percent of recipients average only $846 per year. (Source: Environmental Working Group)

• Farm policy that encourages overproduction has the effect of increasing total use of pesticides and fertilizers and contributes to declines in grassland ecosystems and many bird and other wildlife species that depend on them.

• According to 1998 EPA data, agricultural pollution is the leading cause of water quality impairment in lakes, streams and rivers. Agricultural pollution is the fifth leading cause of water quality impairment in estuaries.
(Source: U.S. EPA brochure - PDF)

• USDA chemical reports show that farmers apply 40 billion pounds of fertilizer and about 500 million pounds of pesticides every year.
(Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of USDA data)

• Nutrients from fertilizers and manure travel from Midwest farm states down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, causing a massive "dead zone" on the Louisiana coast.

The nutrients, including nitrogen and phosporous, trigger a process whereby excess algael growth and decomposition reduces oxygen levels in the water, killing fish, shrimp, crabs and other sea life in an area nearly 8,000 square miles in size.

Farm fertilizers contribute 50 percent of this nutrient pollution. Livestock manure contributes another 15 percent and municiple and industrial sources account for 11 percent.
(Source: American Rivers)

Loss of Small Farms Hurts the Environment

• Critics of U.S. farm policy say it rewards larger industrial-type farms and distorts land values, making it harder for small farms to compete and harder to start a successful small farm. Peter Rosset, executive director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, wrote a backgrounder entitled "On the Benefits of Small Farms," arguing that the loss of small farms hurts society and the environment. Rosset also takes on the myth that small farms are "less productive" than larger farms.

• "In the United States, small farmers devote 17 percent of their area to woodlands, compared to only five percent on large farms, and keep nearly twice as much of their land in 'soil improving uses,' including cover crops and green manures."

• "Simultaneously, the commitment of family members to maintaining soil fertility on the family farm means an active interest in long-term sustainability not found on large farms owned by absentee investors."

• "How many times have we heard that large farms are more productive than small farms, and that we need to consolidate land holdings to take advantage of that greater productivity and efficiency? The actual data shows the opposite -- small farms produce far more per acre or hectare than large farms."

• "Integrated farming systems [employed by smaller farms] produce far more per unit area than do monocultures. Though the yield per unit area of one crop -- corn, for example -- may be lower on a small farm than on a large monoculture farm, the total production per unit area, often composed of more than a dozen crops and various animal products, can be far higher."

• As the debate on a new Farm Bill began, most farmers had lost faith in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act and emergency spending legislation. While Congress dealt out record high crop subsidies under these laws, USDA countered that much of them may actually be helping corporate sized farms buy out their smaller neighbors — the very farms Congress was trying to save (USDA “Taking Stock for the New Century,” page 6).

Examples of who is currently getting farm subsidies:

• Archer Daniels Midland $36,305

• Boise Cascade Corporation $11,024

• Caterpillar $171,698

• Chevron $260,223

• Deere & Company $12,875

• DuPont $188,732

• Georgia Pacific $37,156

• International Paper $375,393

• John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance $125,975

• Mead Corp $15,115

• Westvaco Corp $268,740

Others receiving subsidies: Eli Lilly Co, Kimberly-Clark, Navistar, Pfizer, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.


The heritage foundation but read it anyway -- I am serious read it or stay ignorant – these subsidies must be redirected from Monsanto to small organic farms for good food to become available but you need to understand the details.
I definitely do not agree with their conclusions (extend subsidies to livestock poultry) but read it for the background info such as:

Eligibility Restricted to a Few Crops.

Only one-third of the $240 billion in annual farm production is eligible for farm subsidies.

Five crops-wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice-receive more than 90 percent of all farm subsidies.

Fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry, which comprise two-thirds of all farm production, are generally not subsidized at all.[29]

“Furthermore, farm subsidy formulas are designed to benefit large agribusinesses rather than family farmers. Most farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farmers, who have an average income of $199,975 and an average net worth of just under $2 million.[5]

If farm subsidies were really about alleviating farmer poverty, lawmakers could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of 185 percent of the federal level ($38,203 for a family of four) for just over $4 billion annually-one-sixth of the current cost of farm subsidies.[6]

Obviously, such a policy would be nonsense, yet this exemplifies how farm subsidies are distributed.

The government's solution to alleged farmer poverty is to subsidize growers of wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice while giving no subsidies to producers of fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry, and livestock.

Because subsidies are paid per acre, the largest and most profitable farms receive the largest subsidies, while family farms receive next to nothing.

Thus, a large, profitable rice corporation can receive millions while a family vegetable farmer receives nothing. Overall, farm subsidies are distributed with little regard to merit or need.

Corporate Welfare. Farm subsidies are promoted as helping struggling farmers, but Washington could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of nearly $40,000 for just $4 billion annually. Instead, farm policy is designed to aid corporate agribusinesses.

Among farmers eligible for subsidies, just 10 percent of recipients collect 73 percent of the subsidies-an average of $91,000 per farm. (See Chart 3.)

By contrast, the average subsidy granted to the bottom 80 percent of recipients is less than $3,000 annually.[23]

According to the USDA, the majority of farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farms, which have an average household income of $199,975 and a net worth of just under $2 million.[24]

Commercial farms are also among those that need subsidies the least because they are the most efficient.

Former U.S. Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner writes that the top quarter of corn farmers (usually agribusinesses with economies of scale) can produce a bushel of corn 68 percent cheaper than the bottom quarter of farms can.[25]

Multiplying this larger profit margin by their substantially larger production volume shows how large agribusinesses can be enormously profitable.

Yet these agribusinesses, not small family farms, receive most of the subsidies, making farm subsidies America's largest corporate welfare program. (See Table 1.)

That is not all. Farm subsidies over the past decade have also been distributed to:

• Fortune 500 companies, such as John Hancock Life Insurance ($2,849,799);

• International Paper ($1,183,893);

• Westvaco ($534,210); and

• ChevronTexaco ($446,914).

Celebrity "hobby farmers" such as David Rockefeller ($553,782);

Ted Turner ($206,948); and

Scottie Pippen ($210,520).

• Members of Congress, who vote on farm subsidies, such as

• Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA, $225,041);

• Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR, $45,400, plus a 25 percent ownership in three firms that received $2,114,622); and

• Representative John Salazar (D-CO, $161,084).[26]

Payment limits do exist on paper. Subsidies are restricted to farmers with incomes below $2.5 million, and an individual's subsidy may not exceed $180,000 per farm or $360,000 for up to three farms.

However, an entire industry of lawyers exploits loopholes, rendering these limits meaningless.

Farmers can simply divide their farms into numerous separate entities and then collect subsidies for each farm. For example, Tyler Farms in Arkansas has collected $37 million in farm subsidies since 1996 by dividing itself into 66 legally separate corporations to maximize its farm subsidies.[27]

Other farmers evade payment limits by signing up family members, such as the Georgia farmer who reportedly collected thousands in additional subsidies by signing up his two-year-old daughter as an additional farmer, making her eligible for up to $180,000.

As Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs has concluded, "We have no [payment] limits today."[28]


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