The database of farm subsidies maintained by the Environmental Working Group is one of the most powerful uses of public records ever, and it has changed the way people think about Washington’s enormous pipeline of money to rural America. This month, the EWG presented its analysis of 2006 farm subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s just in time for the debate over the Farm Bill raging on Capitol Hill. House and Senate negotiators are trying to reach agreement, with subsidies to the richest farmers one of the main sticking points.
Minnesota, home to House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, ranks fifth in the nation in its share of the $177 billion in cumulative farm subsidies from 1995 to 2006. That amounts to $10 billion for Minnesota alone during that time, although booming farm income meant Minnesota’s 2006 government harvest of $740 million is a sharp drop from the previous year’s $1.3 billion. Most of the subsidies are commodity payments to, in the Environmental Working Group’s words, “prop up” farmers’ incomes.
Here are the top 2006 recipients of farm subsidies in Minnesota:
1 Hader Farms Partnership, Zumbrota, $534,648
2 Flywheel Grain Partnership, Trail, $482,125
3 Hector Farms II Partnership, Hector, $456,111
4 Harvest States Cooperatives, Saint Paul, $425,731
5 Oberg Farms Prtshp, Moorhead, $371,705
6 University Of Minnesota, Lamberton, $365,348
7 Molitor Bros Farm, Cannon Falls, $324,211
8 Sanders Farms, Truman, $304,028
9 Far Gaze Farms, Northfield, $297,476
10 Roy Olson Partnership, Parkers Prairie, $281,176
11 Kramer Farms, Hector, $264,347
12 Marthaler Farms Partnership, Osakis, $264,100
13 Jetn Enterprises, Hawley, $261,361
14 The Nature Conservancy, Minneapolis, $256,051
15 Duncanson Growers, Mapleton, $239,122
16 Goeman Brothers, Jeffers, $234,606
17 L & B Theis Farms, Shakopee, $234,216
18 Sunset Farms Of Freeborn County, Albert Lea, $230,299
19 Armstrong Family Farms, West Concord, $222,658
20 Four K Farms Ptshp, Morris, $222,432
The most subsidized company in the nation from 1995 to 2006 was Riceland Inc of Stuttgart, Arkansas, which raked in $554 million from the government. Coming in at No. 4 was Harvest States Cooperatives in Inver Grove Heights, with $49 million in subsidies over those years. UPDATE: The Fortune 500 company, now known as CHS, doesn’t keep any of the money but has an arrangement with USDA in which it’s merely a pass-through for payments to farmers, a company official informed me today. The company has unsuccessfully complained to the Environmental Working Group in an effort to remove its name from the list.
Last year, my colleagues Matt McKinney and Glenn Howatt reported on the urban dwellers who were collecting the rural subsidies.
A separate database from the Environmental Working Group unveiled last summer really names names: identifying individuals and organizations who were the top recipients of federal crop subsidies from 2003 to 2005.
Here they are:
1 University Of Minnesota, Lamberton, MN 56152 $749,513
2 Members Of Big Stone Farmer Coop, Graceville, MN 56240 $580,273
3 Michael Scott Stamer, Willmar, MN 56201 $561,501
4 Members Of Lismore Colony, Clinton, MN 56225 $536,616
5 Cole Pestorious, Albert Lea, MN 56007 $516,384
6 Keith Tordsen, Round Lake, MN 56167 $494,966
7 Norman Giese, Appleton, MN 56208 $474,580
8 Phillip Ivan Kvam, Willmar, MN 56201 $461,684
9 John E Nelson, Hanska, MN 56041 $432,121
10 Paul J Beskau, Hastings, MN 55033 $424,443
Just so you know, the United States isn’t alone is subsidizing its farmers. Check out an ambitious project to track European farm subsidies, country by country.