It Pays to be a Farmer

Washington Post: “Farm subsidies have for decades disproportionately benefited richer Americans.”

“Call it agricultural inequality. The country’s top recipients swept 77 percent of subsidies from 1995 to 2012 … The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon propose a rule that could drive that percentage down, Politico reports, starting with tightening the definition of an ‘actively engaged’ farmer. The eligibility for agricultural subsidies remains broad: Anyone who invests time, money or guidance in a farm can qualify for a fat government handout.”

“’It’s a loophole some folks not ‘actively engaged’ in farming are using to collect farm benefits,’ USDA spokesman Cullen Schwarz said, ‘and we’re trying to close that to the extent that we can.’”

“The USDA proposal is parked in the Office of Management and Budget, Schwarz said. Change could take months. Farm subsidies, meanwhile, continue to cushion the privileged.”

“In the past 20 years, at least $11.3 million in farm subsidies went to 50 billionaires — including Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, investment giant Charles Schwab and Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.”

“Then there’s the new crop insurance program, intended to replace direct payments. It comes with no income cap and can help out the kind of earners who don’t necessarily need to be saved … The shift from direct payments to crop insurance, Dayen notes, means it will be much harder to track how the handouts are distributed.”


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