Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Great Giveaway - Farm Subsidies

Both houses of Congress are working on farm bills that will make the biggest cuts to welfare since President Clinton’s 1996 legislation that dismantled Aid to Families with Dependent Children. In 2012, Congress allocated $74.6 billion to SNAP (the food stamp program), an amount the US military spent every 9 days. 
The 2013 farm bill called The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 includes almost $21 billion in cuts over the next ten years. Those lucky enough to remain on the rolls will see an average loss of $25 in benefits for a family of four. Due to economic conditions, long-term unemployment and natural disasters, a staggering 15 percent of the US population receives food stamp benefits, nearly double the rate of 1975. The average monthly benefit per person receiving SNAP benefits was only $133 last year; a household’s income cannot be more than $23,800 for a family of three to qualify for a meager $300 per month. 

It's time for a new farm bill and even deeper cuts.
The cuts will be achieved by leaving hundreds of thousands of children, elderly, disabled and veterans to go hungry. Politicians seek to deprive people of their only source of sustenance, rather than address unemployment, under-employment and low wages. 
The farm bill covers a vast array of programs, among them, farm subsidies, income protection insurance for farmers, research and development, but the SNAP program is the principal remaining assistance offered to the poorest in America. 48 million people depended on food stamps last year for their survival in a household with an average gross income of $744 a month. 

Free-Market Farming? 

Since FDR’s New Deal , taxpayers have subsidized crop insurance and grant programs to assure that farmers are profitable. Legislation protects farmers from the ravages of bad weather and falling markets, yet, the same politicians who protect and promote these protective policies wail about the idea of subsidizing the citizens against the ravages of illness, old age, disability and unemployment. 

A Republican senator even introduced a bill to deny violent felons from being able to collect food stamp benefits. No law forbids a farmer with a felony from receiving government benefits. No such law forbids a felon from running for Congress or even President. But an ex-felon, who has paid his debt to society, should be deprived of food. 

Guaranteed Income 

Over the years, states have lost millions of acres in farmland, yet in 2008, Congress sent a farm bill to President Bush that introduced two new subsidy programs, including the Average Crop Revenue Election program that guaranteed farmers a set level of farm income . To his credit, Bush vetoed the entire bill. Congress overrode the veto and the subsidy-laden bill became law. 
While lawmakers seek to cut benefits from children, the elderly, the disabled and veterans, the farm subsidy system consists of the following: 
    • Direct payments - a set rate paid every year regardless of farming and economic conditions. 
    • Counter-cyclical payments that are triggered when market prices fall below certain thresholds. 
  •  Supplemental Revenue Assurance Program - covers losses in crop production, livestock mortality due to adverse weather ( Livestock Indemnity Payments ), orchard and nursery tree losses ( Tree Assistance Program ), and other production losses on honeybees, or farm raised catfish ( Emergency Assistance program ).
  • Marketing loans offer very favorable terms - farmers can realize tremendous gains through loan deficiency payments (LDPs) and commodity certificates.  
  • Disaster payments recoup large losses due to natural phenomena. And the government subsidizes crop insurance to further insulate farmers from risk. 
So, in essence farmers are paid a premium for each acre of farmland they own, whether they farm or not. If the market price falls one nickel, taxpayers maintain prices for farmers at a certain level. We cover losses in crops, livestock, fruit trees and honeybees. All while we deny food to eat to our most vulnerable citizens. 
We pay the farmer to plant and harvest the crop, subsidize his prices, insure against his loss and then pay again when we buy his product from the supermarket. This is what Republicans call “free market enterprise”. Nothing about it is free... private business is financed and sustained by taxpayers. 
Summaries of the Senate and House drafts. 
The Washington Post conducted a year-long investigation into agricultural subsidies: 
Nationwide, the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all...Some of them collect hundreds of thousands of dollars without planting a seed.
....the payments for corn alone have grown, from $1 billion for the 1998 crop to $4.3 billion for last year's, even though the average price farmers received for a bushel has remained near or above the government floor for the past five years.
In 2002, then-Agricultural Secretary Ann M. Veneman created the Livestock Compensation Program using $750 million from a special fund and then gave credit to John Thune, who was in a tight Senate race.
From: There Really Is Too Much Welfare and Government-Dependance
23 members of Congress, or their family members, raked in $6,140,634 in taxpayer-funded farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2011...$240 billion in commodity, crop insurance, and disaster programs and $37 billion in conservation subsidies.
The same congressional families that benefit from farm subsidies most likely receive crop insurance premium subsidies too. The law bars the federal government from releasing recipients’ names, but 26 policyholders nationwide each received more than $1 million in premium subsidies and more than 10,000 policyholders each received $100,000 or more in 2011. 
From Huffington Post:

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft
Net worth: $15.8 billion

His Kona Residence Trust received $14,429 in barley subsidies from 1996 to 2006.

Philip Anschutz, owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group and co-founder of Major League Soccer
Net worth: $10 billion
His Clm Company received $553,323 in cotton, wheat, sorghum, corn, oat, barley and other farm subsidies from 1995-2003. His Equus Farms received $53,291 in livestock subsidies in 2002..

Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway 
Net worth: $6.8 billion
His Ada Holdings LLC received $37,986 in corn, wheat and soybean subsidies from 2001 to 2006.

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A
Net worth: $6 billion
His Rock Ranch LLC received $4,536 in livestock subsidies in 2003

Charles Ergen, co-founder of DISH Network 

Net worth: $12.5 billion
His Telluray Ranch received $117,826 in crop and livestock disaster payments from 2002 to 2008.

Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises

Net worth: $6.7 billion
Kennedy received $37,162 in rice, corn, sorghum, wheat, soybean, sunflower and other farm subsidies from 1996 to 2004. His York Woods At Yonkapin Cutoff LLC, received $19,545 in rice, sorghum and soybean subsidies from 2002 to 2003.

Leonard Lauder, former CEO of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc.
Net worth: $7.6 billion
His Horizon Organic Dairy Idaho Farm received $360,102 in wheat, diary, barley, corn and other farm subsidies from 1997 to 2004. His Horizon Organic Dairy Maryland Farm received $202,088 in dairy, corn, soybean, wheat and other farm subsidies from 1998 to 2005.

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Net worth: $2.2 billion
Her Chicago Mill & Lumber Co. received $1,604,288 in cotton, soybean, corn, sorghum, wheat, rice, oat and other farm subsidies from 1996 to 2006.

Charles Schwab, founder of brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corporation
Net worth: $5.1 billion
Schwab received $525,593 in rice and other farm subsidies from 1995 to 2003.

Alice and Jim Walton, Wal-Mart heirs
Net worth: $33.5 billion and $33.8 billion, respectively.
Their Robson Ranch Inc. received $261,292 in crop disaster payments, wheat, soybean, corn and other farm subsidies from
1995 to 2008.

Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria’s Secret

Net worth: $5.7 billion
His LAW Plantation Co. LLC received $209,717 in wheat, corn, sorghum and oat subsidies from 1997 to 2003.

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