Billions of dollars in federal farm subsidies go to non-farmers — and now they’re being named.
The Environmental Working Group, at www.ewg.org , is launching a database of farm payments and recipients’ names instead of corporations. It’s an effort to prod Congress into changing policies so subsidies are tied to farm income.
Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s a good idea and one he’s been pushing for years. "I led an effort to get the USDA to cut through and to split up those corporate payments so we knew what individuals got instead of hiding it behind non-entities that nobody knows anything about that showed millions of dollars going to one entity, maybe a cooperative down in rice country in Arkansas, but you don’t know what individuals were getting," he says.
Grassley says the biggest ten percent of farmers are now getting 72 percent of the benefits of the federal farm payment program. He wants to cap the amount so that no farmer could get more than $250,000 a year in payments, instead of the millions now being doled out.
"There ought to be one additional thing we do other than just the caps, and that is to make sure that people that aren’t in the business of farming…receiving farm payments," Grassley says.
According to Grassley, the current system only allows the big farmers to get bigger when the subsidy target should be small-to-medium-sized farmers.