State, Local Governments Get Millions in Federal 'Farm Subsidies'

January 2, 2014 - 12:17 PM

The historic purpose of the farm bill was to "ensure a stable food supply" and "to preserve the family farm." But, when issuing our The Federal Transfer ReportTM- Farm Subsidies & The Big Dogs, OpenTheBooks.com found that some of the largest subsidies were received by government in fiscal years 2008-2011. Federal farm subsidies have grown to such an extent that Uncle Sam's smaller cousins- who aren't traditional farmers, but smaller units of government- are receiving millions.

For example, state governments occupied two of the top six highest farm subsidy recipients:

-         Number one: $8.541 million flowed to the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation and beat all private sector farm entities.

-         Number six: $3.734 million flowed to the Washington Department of Natural Resources and was sixth on the Top 20 Recipients List.

From our report:  DNR Trust Land Management- Montana has received $8.541 million from 9,896 individual payments under the rules of the federal farm subsidy programs during 2008-11. Payments result from such programs as the Crop Disaster Assistance; Counter-cyclical commodity payments for sunflowers, canola, mustard, sorghum, wheat, barley, corn and oats; conservation reserve programs- annual land rental; DCP- Direct payments; CRP- Annual Payments;  Acre Direct Payments; CRP- practice incentiveand even $78.61 in "interest penalty."

Since the Department of Natural Resources is an entity of Montana state government, the "subsidy" is, in reality, just a government transfer payment to Uncle Sam's farming cousin- which is a another government entity. 

Even smaller units of government such as 93 villages and towns across America received $1.2 million. The high-end vacation hot-spot of Park City, UT received thousands in farm subsidies. But, that pales in comparison to its wealthy city-dwelling inhabitants who received $2.129 million.

Other units of government such as municipal airports, utilities and local schools also receive "farm subsidies."  For example, Grissom Municipal Airport, in Bedford, IN of Lawrence County, has received over $15,000 in subsidy in just three years. Since 2008, Petal Municipal School of Petal, MS has received over $22,000 in "farm subsidies" related to Forest Conservation Program- Emergency Forestry Annual Rental.

As a state, Texas received the most farm subsidy of all fifty states, and thirteen cities in Texas combined to receive six figures in farm subsidies: Abernathy, Denver City, Levelland, Slaton, Stamford, Sweetwater, Wellington, Floydata, Roscoe, Silverton, Plainview, Quitaque, and Sundown. By contrast, Iowa received the second most farm subsidy of all fifty states, and eight cities in Iowa combined to receive $51,334: Spencer, Pocahontas, Laurens, Knoxville, Indianola, Greenfield, Decorah, and Batavia. But, in California, only one city- the City of Turlare- received the subsidy: $15,467.

Texas Tech University received $485,992 in farm subsidy - mostly related to cotton, sorghum, peanut, and wheat subsidies. Sam Houston State University received only $2,732 related to a subsidy for livestock. 

So, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars received by universities in federal payments- federal student aid; federal contracts, direct payments and grants; and all other types of federal transfer including research payments- state universities are also receiving millions in farm subsidies. 

In Illinois, thirteen cities combined for $23,921. But, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana received $300,000 in farm subsidies during the years 2008-11 and millions over the life of the programs. The supporting- but private entity- the University of Illinois Foundation picked up additional $40,000 during this time period.

Our intention is to spark a public policy debate on priorities in view of the massive federal debt of nearly $17 trillion. As the former U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) once remarked, "When I feel the heat, I see the light!" Our hope is that citizens, watchdogs, and journalists continue to ask questions and demand reform.  

Considering that the House Republican version of the "Farm Bill" will add 47% growth and spend nearly $1 trillion on "farm subsidies" over the next ten years, now is the time to call your member of Congress and communicate your thoughts on spending.

Learn more at OpenTheBooks.com and read our full report The Federal Transfer ReportTM- Farm Subsidies & The Big Dogs.