Wednesday, December 30, 2020


I ain't saying it ain't pretty. Via.

I wasn't even thinking about anything in particular when I posted this, but today on the radio the Covid version of this came up: as congresspeople continue to to debate over the best way of bribing their better-off constituents to put up with relief money going to the worse-off, it turns out that the nation's big-scale farmers have been collecting money they didn't need all along, with the bigger ones hogging the handouts:

Congress approved about $35 billion in emergency aid to farmers, which came on top of roughly $10 billion in traditional farm subsidies that were already in place. In addition, farmers were able to tap billions of dollars in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The aid, delivered in two separate packages over the course of the year, went to a wide variety of people in agriculture, including corn and soybean farmers, cattle ranchers, and fruit and vegetable producers. The $46 billion in direct government payments to farmers in 2020 broke the previous annual record by about $10 billion, even after accounting for inflation.

Only it turned out not to be an emergency—they'd have had an average year without the payments, and with them had the fifth most profitable year in the last 45. They weren't asked to demonstrate a particular need, just how much they had produced in the previous year, and were awarded grants on the basis of that, up to a cap of $250,000 per partner (maximum of three partners), with the inevitable result that, just as was the case with the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) with which the Trump administration bribed farmers for putting up with the losses incurred through his stupid trade war, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) paid most money to the biggest farmers, according to the Environmental Working Group's AgMag:

We have obtained and analyzed records for $5 billion in CFAP payments through June 30, and they show that CFAP payments through that date went to the largest farm operations, even more than the MFP.

  • The top 1 percent of farms got 22 percent of CFAP payments, for an average payment of $352,432.
  • The smallest 80 percent of farms received 23 percent of CFAP payments, for an average payment of $4,677.

Unlike other stringently controlled welfare programs, like food stamps, farm subsidies place few requirements on people who receive them, and few limits on payments. Many recipients never have to set foot on the farm or ride in a tractor to get paid. That’s why EWG has found thousands of people who live in cities, and some who live on golf courses, who have received MFP payments.

A new Government Accountability Office report released last week found the same trend. The GAO found that for eight of 25 farms that got the largest payments in 2019, the recipients qualified only through “active personal management.” To qualify under that definition, recipients need only dial in to a few shareholder conferences a year.

And if you think there might be 16 members of Congress receiving these payments, you might be right, starting with Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler (in addition to her highly profitable sideline in insider stock trading she's a partner in her father's, mother's, and brother's farming operations, which have netted her $3,435,619 in traditional federal subsidies since 1995 and three maximum MFP payments totaling $750,000) through Doug LaMalfa,  Mike Braun, Chuckles Grassley, and everybody's favorite farmer-legislator Devin Nunes and his imaginary cow (he's made $244,209 in federal subsidies for his 25% share of the family farm in Iowa since 1995). But not Joni Ernst, who hasn't made any farm income since she went to college in 1990, in spite of her hog-castrating rhetoric (her family collected some $460,000 between 1995 and 2015, though). I should note there are two Democrats on that list (Senators Tester and Bennett), but they aren't so stingy with people in need.

NPR notes the irony in which the way the subsidies are structured contributes directly to the depopulation of the regions where they are paid, by giving big farms cash they can use to buy out small ones:

That, in turn, means fewer people in rural communities, and less life in small towns. It seems paradoxical, but according to [western Iowa organic farmer Ron] Rosmann, passing out money to farmers this way can actually hurt farming communities. "We just continue to fight a declining and aging population out here," Rosmann says.

And when the entire state of Iowa is reduced to two dozen octogenarians with gigantic corn and soy plantations worked by ill-paid immigrants, they'll still be running the country, as long as we have a Senate and an Electoral College. It's enough to make you weep.

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