The hard-working folks at the Environmental Working Group have updated the amazing Farm Subsidies Database, which shows how the federal government distributes its corporate agriculture bailouts. It’s pretty damning:
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.
Federal subsidies flow to a favored few crops as well as a favored few farmers. Over seventy percent ($170 billion over 15 years) of farm subsidies supported the production of just five crops: corn, wheat, cotton, rice and soybean. Just four of those same favored five: corn, wheat, cotton, and soybean accounted for over 70 percent ($25 billion over 15 years) of the cost of crop insurance. The vast majority of farm subsidies go to raw material for our industrialized food system, not the foods we actually eat. Even less money goes to support the production of the fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a healthy diet.
They provide several ways to drill into the numbers and a lot of terrific analysis. I recommend spending some time there. I mean, we all know that Big Farma (har) is a scary powerful syndicate, but it’s good to get the numbers.
I entered my zip code, just to see, and I’m really curious about the subsidies in my area. Obviously there aren’t any farms of notable size in Williamsburg—this is the home of Mast Brothers chocolate and other precious foods—I didn’t think there would be any results. But I see that one person has gotten $3,000, and a few others are in the thousands. WTF? I googled their names and didn’t see much, one is some kind of graphic designer or something. I’m guessing the grants were for community gardens or something? I’m all for that, versus some guy spraying pesticide over his corn empire. Anyway, super interesting.