Green acres

What do Scottie Pippen, David Letterman and Ted Turner have in common? Answer: None of them are farmers, but all three have received thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies this decade.

Washington refers to these people as "absentee farmers" – those who own the land and collect the subsidy checks, but few do any actual farming. Further, according to the Journal:

  • The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) records, catalogued by the Environmental Working Group, indicate that some 260 farm establishments will receive $1 million or more under the farm bill now in the Senate.

  • Many of these are giant agribusinesses, not family farms, and some aren't farms at all; Arizona, Purdue and Illinois universities are each scheduled to receive seven-figure subsidies through 2012.

  • Some of the crop payments to the Farming Illini are used to underwrite the school's marching band.

    In addition:

  • Some recipients are even Members of Congress – including six Senators and a handful of House Members who have received a combined $6 million in subsidies over the past decade.

  • Jon Tester, the newly elected Montana Senator, has received more than $300,000 over the past decade.

  • The family of Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has received more than $200,000.

    So what is it about farm bills that turn Republicans into socialists and Democrats into defenders of welfare for the rich? One answer was offered by Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group: "Democrats are so reliant on their ability to compete with Republicans for the farm vote that many are reluctant to push any income limits at all. It's very hypocritical."

    Source: Editorial, Green Acres, Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2007.

    For text:

    For more on Federal Spending & Budget Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 18 December 2007
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