Farm Subsidies - Lining the pockets of wealthy farm owners?

US - What do Ken Lay, Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson and David Rockefeller all have in common? asks Sacha Zimmerman in this months Reader's Digest.
calendar icon 2 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
Years of pocketing lots of money -- your money seems to be the answer.

Amazing as it sounds, your tax dollars have been going to rich guys like these in the form of farm subsidies. That's right, our government is paying big bucks to wealthy individuals who happen to own rural land somewhere, as long as they agree to federal rules about how -- and even whether -- they cultivate their spread.

From 1995 to 2005, Lay, the now-deceased Enron CEO, got $23,326 for conservation land in Missouri; business mogul Turner raked in $590,823 for farms in Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana and Florida; Donaldson supplemented his earnings as a broadcast journalist with $88,308 for a livestock ranch in New Mexico; and Rockefeller, a financier and philanthropist, got $553,782 for two farms in New York.

Appalled that your tax money is going to people who hardly need a handout? Well, it's worse than you think. According to a study by The Washington Post, since 2000 the government has paid people around the country $1.3 billion a year not to farm. That equates to 40 million acres annually -- "the equivalent of making every farm in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio idle," says Brian Riedl, a senior budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

And it's only a small part of the subsidy picture: In 2005 alone, 75 percent of the $20 billion in farm subsidies was paid to farmers for cultivating select crops like corn and soybeans. Among those soaking up the subsidies are well-to-do operators of large industrial farms. Meanwhile, the small, struggling farmer who may actually need assistance is getting squeezed out of business by the big boys lined up at the public trough.

Source: Readers Digest
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