Amidst all the sound and fury over balancing the federal budget, farm subsidies has proved to be something of a sacred cow when it comes to the fiscal chopping block. One would think that auditing and restructuring the $5 billion a year paid to corn, soybean, wheat, rice, and cotton producers would be a good place to begin. By its very size, such a behemoth is surely rife with inefficiency, excessiveness, and outright graft. Yet the current congress, so far, seems more willing to eliminate small expenditures for “organic farmers, sugar growers and an export promotion program” than whittle down the money thrown at Big Ag.
With our deficit forecasts and an upcoming Farm Bill in 2012, it’s improbable that subsidies will continue unscathed, unless the current zeal for a thriftier, better government is not earnest.* America should have a safety net for its farmers, not a dinosaur that provides overlapping coverage and gross outlays for wealthy producers. As budget negotiations carry into next year, it will be important to watch how those representatives with a direct interest in farm subsidies vote.
While the South is not nearly as much on the dole as the Midwest, we’ve got our hands out. For example, Riceland Foods, a farmers co-operative located in Stuttgart, Arkansas, got $554,343,039 from 1995 to 2006. With the recent defeat of former head of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Blanche Lincoln (D-Ar), there are currently only two Southern members of Congress receiving payments from the USDA (not including those from Texas).
These folks are on the clock:
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Aderholt’s wife, Caroline Aderholt, is a 6.3% owner of McDonald Farms, which received a total of $3,059,878 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Additionally she received $338 directly from USDA in 2009.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidies to Caroline Aderholt, using the percentage share information received by USDA, is $191,580.
Fincher is listed as directly receiving a total of $114,519 from USDA between 1995 and 2009. Fincher’s farm, Stephen & Lynn Fincher Farms, is also listed in the EWG database as receiving a total of $3,254,324 between 1999 and 2009. Fincher and his wife Lynn are each 50 percent partners in that farm.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Fincher and his wife received totaled $3,368,843 between 1995 and 2009.
*Senators Conrad and Baucus have asked that cuts to farm programs be off the table for the 2011 budget. They write, “Instead of making arbitrary cuts now through an appropriations bill, we urge that the Agriculture Committee be given the responsibility for crafting any necessary reductions as part of the reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill.” See link for more information on subsidy payments.