Sunday, December 10, 2006

Farm subsidies reached $25 billion last year, despite near-record farm revenue

Long ago, small farmers fed America, and needed help in bad years to stay afloat. Now huge conglomerates dominate farming, and their lobbying power allows them to take over $25 billion a year in tax dollars--most of which come from middle income workers.

1. People who don't farm, who have NEVER farmed, are paid $1,300,000,000 each year in farm subsidies because their land WAS FARMED AT SOMETIME IN THE PAST.

2. Both Democrats and Republicans are at fault.

In 2003, a California rancher named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for 20 cents a gallon cheaper than subsidized milk. It's hard to understand why huge dairies with over 3,000 cows need to be subsidized in the first place, but subsidies weren't enough for the dairy lobby. They also wanted to keep the price of milk high. So they got Democratic Senator Harry Reid to pass a new law ending Hettinga's enterprize--without holding a single congressional hearing.

In 2002, a group of Republicans created the Livestock Compensation Program without consulting Congress. Why? So they could give $50 million to South Dakota ranchers in an effort to help Republican Rep. John Thume defeat Democratic Rep. Tom Daschle.

3. BUT YOU DON'T NEED A DROUGHT TO GET DROUGHT RELIEF. In 2003, if debris from the space shuttle Columbia landed TEN TO TWENTY MILES FROM THEIR CATTLE, East Texas ranchers were allowed to collect up to $40,000 in disaster compensation.

(All information is from the Washington Post's "Harvesting Cash" series in July-December 2006)

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