When it comes to agriculture subsidies, the farm owners who need your money least are the ones getting the heftiest government payouts.
Analysis published this week by our friends at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that 50 members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans received at least $6.3 million in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2014. These billionaires include David Rockefeller Sr., Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the owners of three professional sports teams and dozens of other billionaires, ranging in net worth from $1.85 billion to $33.7 billion.
EWG notes the billionaires likely received even more in crop-insurance payouts, but we will never know, since our federal crop-insurance program lacks basic transparency measures. While the government subsidizes an average of 62 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premiums, at an annual cost of $9 billion, small farmers receive only about 27 percent of the subsidies.
According to a previous EWG analysis, the top 1 percent of crop-insurance subsidy recipients received an annual average of nearly $227,000 in premium support in 2011, while the bottom 80 percent of recipients received only about $5,000 a year. While our federal crop-insurance program ostensibly is designed to protect the kinds of family farms that are especially vulnerable to the risk of drought and bad weather, it has evolved into a massive corporate welfare program that funnels billions of taxpayer dollars to major agribusinesses each year.
If Congress wants to get serious about eliminating wasteful spending and cronyism, fixing America’s broken farm-subsidy system is a great place to start. Check out EWG’s full list of the Forbes-list billionaires who received taxpayer-funded subsidies here.