Billionaires Getting Farm Subsidies

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) put together a list of 50 billionaires on the Forbes 400 List of Wealthiest Americans who have received federal farm subsidies.

The list includes billionaire families like the Pritzker Family whose company Chicago Mill & Lumber received $1,604,288 in farm subsidies from 1996 to 2006.


Forbes Fat Cats Collect Taxpayer-Funded Farm Subsidies

“The billionaires who received farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012 have a collective net worth of $316 billion, based on the Forbes magazine estimates.

Many of these same billionaires may have also received crop insurance subsidies, but taxpayers have no way of knowing because current law prohibits the disclosure of the identities of crop insurance policyholders.

According to EWG’s analysis, more than 40 billionaires own properties that grow crops that are among the most likely to be insured through the federal crop insurance program, including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and sorghum.

From 1995 to 2012, these five crops account for nearly $44 billion in premium subsidies – about 82 percent of total crop insurance subsidies and more than two-thirds of all acres enrolled in the crop insurance program.

On average, taxpayers cover 62 percent of the cost of crop insurance premiums. In 2011 alone, some 26 policyholders received more than $1 million each in premium support, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data analyzed by EWG.

More than 10,000 policyholders received more than $100,000 each in premium support that year. In 2012, the USDA’s Risk Managment Agency reported the crop insurance program cost taxpayers $14.1 billion.

Like other farm subsidies, crop insurance subsidies overwhelmingly flow to the largest and most successful farm businesses.

According to data EWG compiled from USDA, the largest 1% of farm businesses received about $227,000 a year in crop insurance premium support in 2011 – while the bottom 80% received only about $5,000 apiece.”


Meet America’s Elite Farm Subsidy Club

Since the inception of farm subsidies, high-powered officials and celebrities have received lavish payments. OpenTheBooks issued a report in 2011 that found government-funded celebrity farmers included former NBA star Scottie Pippen, media mogul Ted Turner, Tony Award-winning rock icon Bruce Springsteen, and fellow rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

Last year, even billionaire businessman Glen Taylor – the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves – received $116,502 in federal farm subsidies. Does Mr. Taylor, No. 350 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, really need taxpayer funding for his egg and dairy farm in Iowa?

Farm subsidies were never intended to become welfare for the wealthy. Today these subsidies have grown so lucrative that wealthy investors, large corporations, and farm-estate heirs use taxpayer money to maximize their personal returns.

American Transparency, released its OpenTheBooks oversight report, Harvesting U.S. Farm Subsidies.  The report catalogues $13.2 billion in these subsidies flowing to nearly 958,000 recipients in fiscal year 2017. Using our interactive mapping platform at OpenTheBooks.com, taxpayers can search all recipients receiving $100,000 or more in FY2017 farm subsidies by ZIP Code.

Taxpayers even forked over $1.8 billion to pay farmers not to farm their land.

Why can’t Congress rein in the largess and stop farm subsidy abuses? Well, our auditors found 12 members of Congress collected up to $637,059 in subsidy payments last year alone.

In fact, lawmakers crafting the policies on the agriculture committees are, many times, large recipients of their subsidy.

The list includes Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) with $1.3 million, Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) with $20,420, Robert Gibbs (R-Ohio) with $7,660, and Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) with $58,210, and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) with $16,190 (payments between 2015-2017).”


Meet the Farmers of Manhattan

“A 52-story skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York City is the world headquarters for JPMorganChase, the largest bank in the U.S. But according to data from the Department of Agriculture, it’s also the home of one of 850 “farmers” who live in Manhattan.

Between 1995 and 2016, those “farmers” received almost $16 million in federal farm subsidies.  The map below plots their locations.

In theory, farm subsidy recipients must be “actively engaged” in farming. But the Government Accountability Office recently reported that in 2015, almost one-fourth of farm subsidy recipients did not personally provide labor on the farm.

EWG’s analysis of USDA data found that overall, nearly 18,000 people who received subsidies in 2016 live in the nation’s 50 largest cities. In 2015 and 2016, they received $63 million in farm subsidies. And 245 of them received taxpayer-funded farm subsidies or disaster payments for 32 straight years.


Manhattan ‘Farmers’ Receive Budget Boondoggle Award

A farm policy that gives hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies to Manhattan “farmers” is the recipient of the latest Budget Boondoggle Award from Republican members of Congress.

More than 300 New Yorkers, including Mark Rockefeller, a son of Nelson Rockefeller, and a former CEO of The Seagram Company Ltd., Edgar Bronfman, received farming subsidies from the federal government in 2005, according to the Republican caucus of the Committee on the Budget.

The top recipient from New York City collected nearly $214,000 in subsidies between 2003 and 2005, according to the most recent data available.


Mapping The U.S. Farm Subsidy $1M Club

Since 2008, the top 10 farm subsidy recipients each received an average of $18.2 million – that’s $1.8 million annually, $150,000 per month, or $35,000 a week. With the median household income of $60,000 a year, these farmers received more than 30 times the average yearly income of U.S. families.