USA govt pays $20 billion to farm subsidies a year

What are farm subsidies

Farm subsidies are payments made and other support extended by the U.S. federal government to certain farmers and agribusinesses. Farm subsidies are also known as agricultural subsidies.

The original intent of U.S. farm subsidies was to provide economic stability to farmers during the Depression to ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans.

“In the 1930s, about 25% of the country’s population resided on the nation’s 6,000,000 small farms,” per Wikipedia. However, “By 1997, 157,000 large farms accounted for 72% of farm sales, with only 2% of the U.S. population residing on farms.”

Per the USDA, 62 percent of U.S. farmers in 2007 did not receive cash subsidies.

And yet, per the Washington Post, “The Agriculture Department projects net farm income of $94.7 billion in 2011, up almost 20 percent over the previous year and the second-best year for farm income since 1976. Indeed, the department notes that the top five earnings years out of the past 30 have occurred since 2004.”

How much does the U.S. government pay in farm subsidies each year?

The U.S. government presently pays about $20 billion in cash annually to farmers and owners of farmland. Between 1995 and 2005, the federal government paid about $250 billion in farm subsidies, per the Environmental Working Group in “Government’s Continued Bailout of Agribusiness.”

Congress legislates the amount of farm subsidies typically through five-year farm bills. The last, The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (AKA, the 2008 Food Bill) provided $299 billion for farm subsidies, and for other rural issues as nutrition, energy, conservation and rural development.

The 2008 Farm Bill was derided as bloated pork-barrel politics by a plethora of Congress members, both liberals and conservatives, who hail from non-farming communities and states.

However, the powerful farm industry lobby and members of Congress from agriculture-heavy states won out. Also, 2008 election year political pressure silenced critics who were seeking votes from the U.S. farm belt.

Who receives farm subsidies?

“More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of five crops — wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton. More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers,” per The CATO Institute.

“From 1995-2009 the largest and wealthiest top 10 percent of farm program recipients received 74 percent of all farm subsidies with an average total payment over 15 years of $445,127 per recipient – hardly a safety net for small struggling farmers. The bottom 80 percent of farmers received an average total payment of just $8,682 per recipient,” per the Environmental Working Group.


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