Corporate Subsidies for the Rich are Destroying Family Farms
“Farm subsidies are distributed not on the basis of need, but with regard to two other criteria: (1) the type of crop grown, with 90 percent of all farm subsidies awarded to farms that produce wheat, corn, cotton, rice and soybeans,3 and (2) the amount of crops grown, with farmers who grow more crops receiving higher subsidies.
Therefore, large farms and agribusinesses–which, as a result of economies of scale, are also the most profitable farms–are eligible for massive subsidies as long as they grow the crops the government wants them to grow.
Meanwhile, small lower-income farms growing the same five crops receive only a fraction of what large farms receive; and farmers planting the 400 other crops, regardless of their need, are completely excluded from most farm subsidies.
The greatest loophole is the fact that subsidy limits apply to people, not farms; this applies to individuals as well as to corporations and partnerships. Therefore, large farms and agribusinesses can simply sign up each of their employees for a subsidy, and farmers in some cases can sign up their spouses and children to maximize the total subsidy to a given farm.
Furthermore, the limits shown for individual payments can be doubled if they are spread out across up to three properties. For example, an individual who receives the maximum PFC subsidy of $40,000 for one property can also receive up to $20,000 for each of two additional properties, for a total of $80,000 in subsidies.
Farm owners have taken advantage of this law by dividing an existing farm into several separate farms and then having its workers collect a separate subsidy for each farm. A case in point is Tyler Farms in Arkansas, which collected $23.8 million in farm subsidies between 1996 and 2000 (the largest amount granted to any farm in America) by dividing itself into 66 legally separate “corporations” to maximize its farm subsidies.
The failure of Congress and government entities to enforce payment ceilings, combined with subsidy limits that are full of loopholes, has created a system that has channeled billions of dollars in “support” to the largest and most profitable farms as long as they grow what the government wants them to grow.
Under this mistargeted system, agriculture policy has become America’s largest corporate welfare program. According to the Environmental Working Group, two-thirds of all farm subsidies go to the top 10 percent of subsidy recipients while the bottom 80 percent of recipients receive less than one-sixth of farm subsidies. A full 60 percent of America’s farmers do not qualify for any assistance.
In 2000 alone, more than 57,500 farms received subsidies totaling over $100,000, and subsidies of at least 154 farms topped $1 million.
Among these beneficiaries are fifteen Fortune 500 companies, including Westvaco, Chevron, and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance, which receive as much as 58 times as much as the median annual subsidy of $935.
The current system has caused hardship not only for the taxpayers who pay this enormous subsidy tab, but also for unsubsidized farmers with small farms. Many of the largest, most profitable farms and agribusinesses that have received the lion’s share of subsidies have used these funds to buy out smaller farms. In what one agriculture official calls the “plantation effect,” family farms with less than 100 acres of land are being bought out by larger agribusinesses, which then convert them into tenant farms. To date, three-quarters of the nation’s rice farms have already become tenant farms, and the ownership of other types of farms is beginning to trend in that same direction.9
In other words, far from saving America’s family farms, the current farm subsidy system is destroying them.”
Farm Subsidies are A Hundred Billion Dollar a Year International Extortion and Protection Racket
“CSAKVAR, Hungary — Under Communism, farmers labored in the fields that stretch for miles around this town west of Budapest, reaping wheat and corn for a government that had stolen their land.
Today, their children toil for new overlords, a group of oligarchs and political patrons who have annexed the land through opaque deals with the Hungarian government. They have created a modern twist on a feudal system, giving jobs and aid to the compliant, and punishing the mutinous.
These land barons, as it turns out, are financed and emboldened by the European Union.
Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around the Continent and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. The prime minister of the Czech Republic collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies just last year. Subsidies have underwritten Mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria.
Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within. This is because governments in Central and Eastern Europe, several led by populists, have wide latitude in how the subsidies, funded by taxpayers across Europe, are distributed — even as the entire system is shrouded in secrecy.”
“Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years, an alarming public health development that is contributing about $150 billion a year to the overall cost of U.S. health care.
Almost one in five children aged six to eleven are seriously overweight, making them highly vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
At the same time, Congress and the Department of Agriculture are spending more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize the crops that are used as additives in manufacturing cookies, candies, soda pop and other highly popular junk food that arguably are among the primary contributors to childhood obesity. The sweet, fatty and calorie-rich Hostess Twinkies alone contain 14 ingredients made with highly subsidized processed ingredients, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening.