September 9, 2003
CONTACT: Jon Corsiglia or Liz Moore, 202-667-6982
Farm Subsidy Database Returns With New Information
Update Tracks Payments During First Year of 2002 Farm Bill
WASHINGTON - The Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched the first major upgrade to its Farm Subsidy Database website on September 9 and added more than 16 million subsidy payment records to the website. The upgraded website now tracks over 108 million USDA payments totaling $114 billion. The site has drawn millions of visitors and "served" tens of millions of page-views since its debut in November 2001.
The updated site also provides thousands of new analyses, including top-recipient listings and payment concentration analyses at the state and county levels, and within each major USDA program. EWG has also added, for the first time, information provided by USDA on ownership interests in subsidized farms.
EWG's findings include:
Payment concentration is on the rise. In 1995, the top 10 percent of recipients took in 55 percent of total subsidy payments (all categories combined), "earning" them $3.98 billion. By 2002, the top 10 percent collected 65 percent of total subsidies, a share worth $7.8 billion.
The peanut quota buy-out has been a taxpayer-funded windfall for the largest quota holders. The top 10 percent of peanut subsidy recipients in 2002 collected 62 percent of the payments. The top recipients included John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance, which collected $2,124,760 in peanut subsidies in 2002.
The dairy subsidy program is much more equitable than most commodity programs. In 2002, the first year the program took effect, the top 10 percent of recipients collected only 33 percent of the dairy subsidies.
Conservation programs accounted for only 12.5 percent of total agricultural subsidies between 1995 and 2002. Conservation's share decreased during this period, funding to conservation programs remained level while commodity programs increased drastically - at a time when they were supposed to decline.
"Why should we continue to provide direct payments to the overwhelmingly largest producers of certain, favored crops? These data reinforce our view that more federal assistance, in the form of conservation program support, should be made available to farms of all sizes, regardless of what they grow," said EWG President Ken Cook.