Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Check out your neighbor’s farm subsidies on the Internet


Politicians, farmers, and conservationists are surfing a new
Internet data base that lists the federal farm subsidies paid to
individual farming operations throughout the United States from
1996 to 2000.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group acquired the data with
a Freedom of Information request and posted it on its web site,, Nov. 6. Since then, Internet surfers have made over 8
million searches in the data base.

The site is designed to allow users to easily retrieve detailed
annual data for commodity, disaster, and conservation payments for
virtually every farm that receives these subsidies. The site also
shows where the highest payments are going by state and even by

“We think it is important for the public to see where the money
is going,” says Sarah Feinberg, EWG press secretary.

The organization contends that the subsidy program favors large
producers. Nationally, only one third of farmers receive federal
subsidies. Of these, the top 10 percent received 70 percent of the
subsidies during the past five years $48 billion of the $60 billion
program. Feinberg said most of the federal assistance goes to
producers of eight commodity crops cotton, corn, rice, wheat,
barley, sorghum, soybeans, and oats and discourages farmers from
growing other, nonsubsidized crops.

“If you grow 1,000 acres of rice, you get a hefty check from the
government no matter what,” Feinberg says. “Yet if the farm next
door grows 1,000 acres of tomatoes, they’ll get nothing at

Subsidy programs result in high production of target crops,
starting a cycle of low prices and more subsidies for price
supports, according to the EWG. The EWG contends current U.S. farm
policy is a failure for all but the largest producers. Subsidies
support only 20 percent of the nation’s total agricultural
production value, but 30 percent of the total farm acreage is
devoted to subsidized crops.

The EWG contends there are geographic inequities in farm
programs, too. Producers in 12 states get more than 70 percent of
the subsidies. In those states, a higher percentage of farmers get
government aid. The EWG data shows that 46,977 of Minnesota’s
73,367 farms or 64 percent get federal subsidies. The states with
highest percentages of government assistance per farm are North
Dakota, where 79 percent of farming operations are subsidized, Iowa
at 75 percent, South Dakota at 70 percent, and Nebraska at 69

The web site is attracting attention from policy makers.
National newspapers report that senators and USDA officials are
spending hours on the web site. Currently, the Senate is working on
the new Farm Bill, which is expected to be passed next year. Senate
leaders have said they want to place more emphasis on conservation
in this go-around, a position that gets a thumbs up from the

“We think more federal assistance in the form of conservation
payments should be available to all farmers,” says Feinberg. “We
are not against farm subsidies, but we don’t believe it is in the
best interest of taxpayers to write checks to corporate

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