Who Got the $33 Billion in Farm Subsidies for the US-China Trade-War and Coronavirus Payments?

Individual recipients don’t even have to work on a farm; people getting these payments can be “city slickers.”

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Unlike food stamps and other welfare programs that are strictly controlled and limited by income, farm subsidies place few such obstacles on the folks that receive them. “Many recipients never have to set foot on the farm or ride in a tractor to get paid,” according to an analysis by EWG of Department of Agriculture records that it had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The analysis covers the $33 billion spread across two farm subsidy programs: The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) created to offset the effects of the trade war against China, and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

EWG’s analysis found that the “largest and wealthiest U.S. farm businesses received the biggest share of that $33 billion in payments.” And in earlier analyses of the data, it revealed that “thousands of people who live in cities, and some who live on golf courses” have received MFP payments.

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP).

The purpose of the MFP is to compensate farmers for the effects of the US-China trade war during which China reduced its purchases of US agricultural commodities. Under this program, the US government paid farmers $23 billion from 2018 through June 30, 2020, not including crop insurance premium subsidies.

The administration set the maximum a person could receive under the MFP for 2018 at $125,000. But for 2019, this per-person limit was doubled to $250,000, which, according to EWG, “sent an extra $519 million to the largest farms.”

The payment limit applies only to individuals, and according to EWG, farms can have many people who get payments, with each individual getting up to $250,000. And these individual recipients don’t even have to be on a farm, as long as they qualify as “active personal management.” According to EWG, all these recipients would need to do qualify under active personal management is “dial in to a few shareholder conferences a year.” These people that are getting these payments can be “city slickers.”

An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released September 14 (PDF) found that eight of the 25 recipients that received the largest payments in 2019 qualified only through “active personal management.”

On August 24, the USDA released new rules to tamp down on the abuses of the “active personal management” qualification. Going forward, the new rules would require recipients to contribute at least 25% of the farm’s total management, or 500 hours of management a year. But these new rules apply only to traditional farm subsidy programs and do not apply to the MPF or CFAP programs.

So, now that we know what “recipient” means… EWG’s analysis of USDA records found that the largest 2% of recipients received nearly a quarter of these subsidies, averaging $390,223 per farm, but that the smallest 80% of farms – the small and medium-size farms – received just 23% of the subsidies, or on average $9,109 each:

Rank of Recipients % of total Payments # of Recipients Total Payments 2018 to Jun 2020, billion $ Average per recipient
Top 1% 16% 7,267 $3.8 $524,689
Top 2% 24% 14,534 $5.7 $390,223
Top 5% 41% 36,337 $9.5 $261,258
Top 10% 58% 72,674 $13.5 $185,412
Smallest 80% 23% 581,400 $5.3 $9,109

And these farm subsidies can be layered on top of other subsidy programs, with a farm receiving multiple subsidy programs. EWG:

For example, two of the largest MFP recipients were Smith & Sons, based in Bishop, Texas, which got total payments of more than $3.2 million, and Deline Farms Partnership of Charleston, Mo., which received more than $2.9 million.

EWG also points out a further complication in even digging into the data, and “another blow against federal farm program transparency”:

Records of 2019 top recipients also list several banks and financial institutions. If a farm had an operating loan with a bank, the bank received the farm’s bailout check, and USDA listed them as recipients in response to our FOIA request. Many of the biggest MFP recipients in the Farm Subsidy Database are now banks – another blow against federal farm program transparency, because if the checks are sent to banks, taxpayers do not know who is actually getting the money.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

The purpose of this program is to help farmers deal with the economic downturn resulting from the Pandemic. “As of Sept. 13, CFAP payments totaled more than $9.9 billion, but the Department of Agriculture has not yet responded to EWG’s FOIA request for records of the most recent payments,” EWG said. The administration last week announced an additional $14 billion for the CFAP.

So this is just the beginning of this program. EWG’s analysis of USDA records, covering $5 billion in CFAP payments through June 30, 2020, found a similar pattern, with the largest 5% of farm enterprises getting nearly 50% of the subsidies (not including crop insurance premium subsidies):

Rank of Recipients % of total Payments # of Recipients Total Payments 2018 to Jun 2020, billion $ Average per recipient
Top 1% 22% 3,089 $1.1 $352,432
Top 2% 33% 6,178 $1.6 $265,053
Top 5% 49% 15,445 $2.5 $159,257
Top 10% 62% 30,890 $3.1 $101,286
Smallest 80% 23% 247,126 $1.2 $4,677

And since these farm subsidies can be layered on top of each other, the EWG found that the largest CFAP payment through June went to Titan Swine of Ireton, Iowa, which received over $2.5 million under multiple programs.

The EWG’s database of farm subsidies is public and searchable, including by farm business names.

As the analysis shows, these farm subsidies – taxpayer-funded welfare programs – like so many subsidies, give crumbs to small entities that might need the subsidies the most, and give the largest operations the lion’s share, whether they needed it or not, with many recipients not even working on a farm but living in big cities around the country.

The trillions are flying by so fast, it’s hard to even count them. But somebody had to buy these Treasury securities. And it wasn’t just the Fed. Here’s who. Read... Who Bought the $3.3 Trillion Piled on the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt Since March?

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  86 comments for “Who Got the $33 Billion in Farm Subsidies for the US-China Trade-War and Coronavirus Payments?

  1. California Bob says:

    Our almond growers CO-OP offered us the opportunity to cash in on this. Though we probably could have gotten some of that sweet government cash–some relatives went for it–we were not materially affected so I didn’t apply. Not surprising I’ll never be rich.

  2. Cas127 says:


    DC spent $4.5 trillion in 2018…wouldn’t bet against at least 25% of that being essentially stolen in infinite legalized ways.

    There is a reason why DC can’t survive anymore if interest rates are allowed to rise much above zero.

    If you are going to examine the District of Sh*thole program by program…you will have enough posts for the next 1000 days.

    And, more importantly, you will be playing DC’s game…which is to bury the thefts under a morass of words and both ends played against the middle.

    Over and over and over and over.

    Much better just to spotlight the decades of accumulated bureaucratic pathology (see US debt to GDP), target X% cuts across every program in existence, and let the political class rats fight to the death over the shrunken corpse.

    Going program by program is to fight a land war in Asia.

    Playing by DC’s two party political Kabuki rules is what has brought the economy to this point of ruin.

    • Centrist Midwestener says:

      I don’t get why people keep talking 2 parties as if this bill was equally crafted under both parties and they worked together (Dems and Repubs never argue huh?). The bill had largely been the work of republicans. The Democrats concept was tossed out immediately because Trump wouldn’t sign something they helped to craft.

      The republicans are in charge. They take responsibility from legislation under their rule. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to admit this.

      • Finster says:

        See what Cas127 just posted. One program might be more heavily promoted by Dems, another by Reps … if you zoom out and look at the big picture you see they’re all playing the same game.

      • Happy1 says:

        Dems control the House last I checked, they are the ones saying 3.5 Trillion more in subsidy or we’ll through a tantrum. Both parties are at fault to some degree but Dems will spend far far more if they hold House, Senate, and Presidency, you can bank of that and will likely live it in January.

    • Harrold says:

      Wow, I had no idea that the economy was in ruin.

      • Cas127 says:

        Fed debt to GDP in excess of 100%.

        Interest rates destroyed through money printing.

        Triggering significant inflation in housing costs.

        Last 20 years seeing significant declines in 25 to 54 employment ratios.

        Demographic nightmare of entitlements on doorstep.

        And more.


        Zombies only look alive.

        But they are already dead.

    • andy says:

      That is a whole 1% from the money printed in March thru May. Outrageous.

      • edmondo says:

        Youi know what’s better? Letting people steal government funds because “no one is really hurt” – except maybe every citizen.

    • Motorcycle Guy says:


      Well said. Thank you.

  3. Auld Kodjer says:

    My late father and now brother belong to the traditional bum-on-tractor seat, sun-up-to-sun-down cohort of farmers.

    Had they reached the required “500 hours”, they would have wondered what to do for the rest of the year from February to December.

  4. MCH says:

    OMG, what a damned fraud. This is just insane. May be I should withhold my income taxes next year because of the need to pay myself a insert a random acronym subsidy.

    And here I thought $600 per week with rental moratorium was bad.

    • lenert says:

      Not a good idea to withhold your taxes unless you have a good attorney general.

    • R D Keene says:

      As money and power are the only things that concern Washington DC I think it is high time for a taxpayers revolt. It is all they will listen to. We have no representation. Billionaires scream about socialism and yet they live by socialism. So many lies. So much corruption. All I see is the end of the American experiment brought to you by our federal government. It is high time for a tax payer revolt. One person cannot do it alone but if many did so it would be hard to ignore and prosecute. It is like the old saying…if you owe the bank $10,000 it’s your problem, if you owe the bank 10 million it’s the banks problem. Defund Washington.

  5. lenert says:

    All while paying pickers poverty wages.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      Did you catch the NFL cheerleaders’ lawsuit against the NFL a few years ago?

      The NFL makes something like $9-10B/year and they were paying some of the cheerleaders $5/hour.

      The people ruining our country have no shame whatsoever, none.

      And yet they find themselves offended and angry by people silently kneeling during a song or saying something as nasty as “Our lives matter.”

      • andy says:

        $5/hour? Outrageous.
        How much the silently kneeling NFL people get paid?

      • Harvey Mushman says:

        If they come to my house… I will double their wages to cheerlead in my living room as I watch Monday Night Football. :-)

  6. fizee says:

    The problem is that government money is not like other money. It is funny money, low morality money, fairy bread, it grows on government trees. Nobody feels any guilt about taking it with rare exceptions like California Bob. It is easy to justify – I pay taxes, its not like stealing from an individual etc. It is the apotheosis of the greed that fuels our society, our businesses, our politicians, our fundamentally money based cultural system.

    • Cas127 says:

      “grows on government trees”

      So long as the G can BS the general public that inflation,

      A) does not exist and,

      B) is some other evil business’ fault…

      DC will continue to operate as the master forger.

      Over the last 60 or so years, DC has become less a seat of gvt and more Arkham Asylum.

    • rhodium says:

      And there are people who actually believe that the economy works properly because of greed. If everyone does only what is in their self-interest with no thought to anyone else (aka greed), then the few who become powerful simply beget an increasing amount of corruption until all the other greedy people decide to burn the system down. Grade A recipe for prosperity right there.

      There is a game theory element to this though. When some people see others as being greedy and violating whatever social contract is believed to exist, it is perceived as injustice, like cheating. One of the government’s main roles is to promote justice by establishing a justice system. If the government is not just, for whatever reason, then increasingly the people will not feel a need to follow the social contract (on some higher level this probably always goes back to an intuitive understanding of the golden rule). People then are increasingly tempted to act greedily and take advantage of each other because they believe the system is already unfair. Ultimately this is not good for anyone.

      • Happy1 says:

        Seeking one’s own interest is intrinsic to human behavior and the base of a market economy, if you are pretending their is an economic model that doesn’t take people seeking their own interest into account, you are living in a fantasy world.

        • cb says:

          Happy1 said: “Seeking one’s own interest is intrinsic to human behavior and the base of a market economy ”

          Can you prove this?
          sounds like self serving propaganda, promoted by thieves and lowlifes to justify their deviancy …………….

          mutual interest is essential to a healthy society ………..

  7. Lee says:

    Sounds like the typical government program with rules and actions set up to benefit a few or those that know how to use the system to help their people.

    Here are some examples of how this works from my time in the military.

    In two of the instances I was one of the the ‘unlucky’ ones and ended up getting much less than other people who had people above them that knew how to milk the system and let their underlings get the full benefits.

    In one assignment there were a bunch of SF people living ‘off the economy’ and were getting a huge per diem a day for meals, housing and incidentals in addtional to their normal pay.

    My boss back in the USA could have cared less if I also got the per diem and had told me to go ahead and make the arrangements as they had bugdeted for the amount.

    My immediate supervisor in that assignment who didn’t have that ability and was told by his supporting unit that he couldn’t do the same, quashed the move for me and everybody under his command.

    If HE wasn’t going to get the extra money then NOBODY under his command was going to get it either. And of course we were going to help the military reduce the amount of rations in the inventory as well!!!

    (What a crocked up situation: the SF Det living in decent quarters and getting meals and others out in the field eating rations!!!)

    So those SF people were getting paid for their “nice” housing, food and more importantly other incidentals which didn’t require receipts so they ended up pocketing an extra amount which at that time amounted to about a year’s worth of my basic pay and all tax free too. And this was back years ago when military pay was very low and money was real money.

    This happened to me again years later when I was called to AD for a period of time and ended up working with a bunch of Navy (!!!!) reservists from the USA.

    At the end of the assignment they all were boasting how they were going to spend their ‘extra’ pay when they got back to the USA as their boss decided that as we (they) working the night shift (6:00pm to 6:00am) that normal meals weren’t not available and allowed the people to put in a claim.

    Yes, you read that right – 12 hour shifts for 7 days a week.

    But no, not for the Army guys – we could eat rations or pick up something from the flight line mess if it was open and had anything left. If not, tough SH**, we wait. The ARMY is tough and not a bunch of ******* like the Navy.

    More thousands missed out on.

    And what about normal assignments?

    Yeah, it happens there too. In one office as a very junior officer I had the ‘honor and privilege’ of also having the extra duty of managing the office’s budget and travel program. As the end of each financial year was approaching we’d have to make sure and spend everything in the budget or we’d lose it the next year’s budget.

    When it came to ‘travel’ and TDY pay, the Colonel was number one on the list for making sure that he got to go first regardless of the mission requirements and that any remaining funds would be used up by taking a ‘necessary’ trip……………..Right.

    But heaven forbid if my calcs were wrong and the amounts went over!!!

    One year, for some reason, we hadn’t spent much money on stationery. So I ended up buying thousands and thousands of dollars of copy paper and supplies for the Xerox machines. I’d guess that they never had to buy paper for years and years after that!!

    Oh, and one time I did get a nifty free trip and attended a short training program by default. The dolt who I replaced on one assignment didn’t have the necessary background for the position he was in so the Group applied for funds to train him. Unfortunately for him, the funds weren’t approved until AFTER he left and rather than lose the funds, I was sent back to the USA to attend. Weeeee!!!

    • Paulo says:

      Interesting account, Lee.

      It is a recipe for disillusionment. It is a similar story in having to carry dead weight in the private sector; the favoured employee, bosses kids, etc. The only thing that keeps people from giving up are personal values, like an honest days work for decent/fair pay.

      I once worked with a guy who told me stole something from work every day. It didn’t matter what, anything would do. Time to move on then start stealing, which is what your description of false claims really are.

      • Lee says:

        Oh the stories I could tell about what when on during that assignment. Some funny, some riduculous, and a lot totally disgusting.

        I still get a kick out of remembering details about that assignment – SF people housed in places with hot and running water and 24 hour electricity and our people with no hot or running water and only electricity off and on. We had generators for providing electricity when the civilian electricity went out, but could only run them when we had fuel.

        No fuel meant no electricity which meant no refrigeration either which meant the food stored in the refer units had to be used up before it spoiled and in the warm weather food didn’t stay cool long.

        And then when that food ran it out it was back to MRE’s…………

        Came in back from the field one day unshaven and stinking like a pig and was told I had 10 minutes to brief a bunch of d***head Congressmen who flew in to get away from the cold weather in DC. Had that happen quite a few times. They loved the free trip on the military planes and warm weather. Total waste of taxpayers’ money.

        The military couldn’t even get the logistics right, but we could get visiting Congressmen (and women) at our deployed location…………

        And then there was the COS – one of the biggest DIP***S I’ve ever met. Had to interact with that person at least on a weekly basis or more frequently, who happened to be a woman, and IMO was only put in that position because she was a woman. Had the brains of bird, was incompetent, and just a plain jerk.

        Scuttlebutt was that she had screwed up big time before we got there (From various official reports that had came out after I left there, it was all pretty much true) which made our job there even more difficult.

        Anyway, after we got there one of things we had to do was provide a daily briefing at the embassy – either myself or a a person in my unit.

        So one day one of people came back swearing and cursing her………evidently she told him that from now on whenever my people were going to enter the embassy that we would be required to leave our weapons with the guard at the gate…………

        The guards just happened to be civilain nationals of the country and NOT US citizens or soldiers.

        So I basically hit the ceiling and went down to the embassy to have a little ‘chat’ with the Ambassador…………after that little ‘chat’ there were no more problems with my people carrying weapons into and out of the embassy.

        And believe it or not when I finally left my asssigment the guy who I sat next to on the commercial flight home was the US Ambassdor!!!

    • Tony22 says:

      SF people? You mean from San Francisco?

      Why do people assume that everyone knows what their damn acronyms mean?

      • Lee says:

        SF – Special Forces – you know the snake eater types who are supposed to be really tough and love living in the field and playing in the dirt.

        I don’t know what they were supposed to be doing in their assignment other than collecting those big pay checks.

        Our ‘unit’ was pulled together from a bunch of other units and deployed to take over when the other unit left to go back to the USA. They took everything with them when they left.

        When we got there there we had no transport, no maps, and no communications equipment. Oh, yeah we could use the civlian telephone system when the electricity was working or stop in at one the MP (Military Police) detachments to use their radios……..

        So in order to be able to at least communicate some of the time I had the people back in the states run to Radio Shack to buy radios for us to use!!!

        Communications equipment – that reminds me of one of the other assignments I had. One of the functions I had in that assignemnt was to command a MP (Military Police) detachment.

        One day I got a call from the Group S-4 that my radio receivers had finally come in. Great, I said, where are my transmitters?

        Oh, we don’t have those yet was the reply…………………and when I left that assignment we still didn’t have them.

  8. Fat Chewer. says:

    Titan swine. Very appropriate.

  9. Jay says:

    Another agro scam just like the USDA programs. One of the big ones was paying people for failed crops such as trying to grow peanuts in pennsylvania. Then sell the farm to another family member and so on.

  10. DJ says:

    Per conversation with previous county agent- farmers are some of the biggest welfare recipients in the nation. There is fraud in some cases.

    Just a personal observation- dont most big farms raise corn, soybeans or cotton. Cotton I can see as subsidized clothing. Corn and soybeans maybe as subsidized feed for animals, not sure how much is grown for fuel.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Dairy farmers get 75% of their income from subsidies (taxpayers) to produce milk that is not needed. You pay for milk twice–once at the store, and another time when you pay your taxes. They are the biggest welfare queens.

      • sfgjf says:

        And that is exactly the reason consumers can buy milk for 2.99 a gallon. If the market paid the farmer what the product is worth by cost of production there would be no need for subsidies.

        I am a cattle and sheep rancher. I work 7 days a week 365 days per year dawn to dusk. The amount of my income is determined by the markets which I have no control. The meat packers control the market and cause retail meat to cost consumers $10 per pound while the rancher gets $1.50.

        Farmers and ranchers can’t simply raise their prices to cover increased production. We have no control in that regard.

        So unless a system is worked out that the consumer pays substantially higher food prices ( of which the farmer producer benefits), subsidies will remain our only safety net.

        • roddy6667 says:

          There is no need for a dairy farmers’ subsidy. There is no need for a safety net. If you are trying to make a living providing a good or service that is not needed, you should fail. Society should not subsidize you. All the buggy whip factories closed. Mile would be more expensive in the store if the subsidies were dropped, but the taxpayer buying the milk would be paying less taxes. The poor people get Food Stamps and WIC, so it won’t affect them.

      • Paul from NC says:

        Ahh yes, those corporate-welfare-heifers the dairy farmers!!! That’s why over 60% of them have closed up shop (many punctuating the crising by swinging by their necks in their barns) in Wisconsin just in the last 15 years. We have a dirt-cheap-food policy here in the US. It’s the only way the rich and powerful, stay rich and powerful, and keep the torches and pitchforks at bay. I do agree though, its about time people started paying real money, for *real* milk in the grocery stores. No more dead/pasteurized/homogenized milk should be allowed to be sold (same for the rest of the dairy “products” currently on the market).

        • sfgjf says:

          I’m providing goods that are no longer needed. If the farmers go out of business, who will provide you with cheap, plentiful food. Actually, you as the consumer, are being subsidized as well with the low prices you pay for your groceries. Agriculture isn’t a industry that isn’t needed. The market makers have stacked the odds against the farmer. Gladly give up the subsidies for a fair market. BTW Buggy whips still exist and are manufactured in the USA

        • Happy1 says:


          Farmers somehow survived for 10s of Thousands of years before US farm subsidies in the 1930s, I’m sure they would thrive without them going forward.

  11. Dave says:

    My cousin is a farmer. He says the last few years the “handouts” are just over the top and not based on any need.
    Just buying votes.

    It’s not just farming. The “stimulus” has been applied largely without regard to need across the board. Eventually we will all pay though. Won’t be pretty.

  12. Fat Chewer. says:

    I am I crazy, or did something called checks and balances exist once upon a time?

  13. David Hall says:

    Farm subsidies went to red state voters after they were disenchanted by the Chinese boycotts of their products.

    Trump grew hay on golf course properties in order to gain farm property tax reductions.

    • TXRancher says:

      Good joke but hay wasn’t on crop list.
      I refused the cattle subsidy again.

  14. NARmageddon says:

    It sounds like the bulk of the subsidies (so far) went to landowners and not farmworkers. The 24.aug rule change may somewhat change that, but all the land-owners would only have to do is slum it on the farm for about 3 months per year to get 500 “working” hrs on the premises, and qualify again.

  15. Ron of Ohio says:

    I collected some of this money and I guess I am a city slicker. The farm property is two states away in Illinois so I do not “work the farm”. Yes, I was smart enough to get out of Illinois, but still have farm property there. My property is farmed “on shares”. So I am the landlord and I rent to the farmer with his payment being a percentage of the crop. I own the land, I pay the real estate taxes (In Illinois that means double digit tax increases almost every year) and the farmer supplies the equipment, labor and materials. I am still responsible for major land improvements like dry dams, private road bridge replacement, etc. and the farmer takes care of smaller issues.

    Corn and soybeans are grown on this farm. This is field corn, bigger kernels but about as hard as popcorn before it is popped. 99.99% of the corn you see in flyover country is field corn. This is NOT sweetcorn sold in the grocery store.

    The grain markets were ok before Covid19, but the shutdown killed prices. These grains are livestock feed and export items. When the slaughter houses started to close, demand for livestock fell. You want to slow the animals’ growth hoping the livestock markets recover by the time they are market size, so you switch cattle from corn to hay, or give less grain to hogs. You try to put the animals on a holding pattern. So Covid 19 torpedoed the grain markets with demand down for livestock feed and exports. It does not take much of a drop for the price to get below the cost of production.

    I agree that government has too many farm programs. Example-there used to be tobacco farming payments, then a cigarette tax to the consumer. So they pay you on the front end to produce more, then tax you on the other end to reduce sales. If government just stepped out of the picture, it seemed it would self-adjust. Under the tobacco program, the farm payments would good enough that when land sold at auction, the “tobacco acreage allotment” would be listed as a selling point. Also, today the government is paying people to return land to wetlands that they paid us as in my youth to drain and clear for farmland.

    With Covid-19, the markets were crashed by government action. So I applied and got my money. My share was about what the property tax increase was. farming acre. Try cash flowing a land payment on that.

  16. Bet says:

    I had a 569 acre producing farm in south Texas. Cotton subsidies were insane We grew cotton once in 20 years. Cotton subsidizes the Agro chemical companies.
    The breakdown was it cost us about 60 percent in chemicals to grow cotton. Chemicals that were govt mandated if we decided to grow cotton Then we were paid almost 50 percent guaranteed above market price. The US destroys the global incentive for other countries to grow cotton ie Afghanistan. No wonder they grow
    Poppies instead. It was the most profitable crop we grew. But it was only once. After watching all grow season the tons of chemicals being dropped from the sky by the crop dusters buzzing like angry mosquitos. Causing my lips to swell and throat to burn. Plus I felt I was ripping off taxpayers ( I will never be rich) poisoning my farm and the wildlife on it. Harming other countries which I felt was a national security issue all to benefit the US agro chemical companies. We grew cotton and then dumped it on the global market at low prices. But we got paid. I feel for small farmers. We leased and share cropped to a young farmer with four kids. He loved the land but could not afford to buy. I wanted to make sure he kept farming. So for many years we took less to keep him in it. America needs that kind of human stock
    So I subsidized a valuable human capital

    • NARmageddon says:

      You sound like a decent guy. That bit about Afghanistan was very revealing.

      Can you provide a reference (link) about how USG mandates specific pesticide use for cotton farming?

    • rhodium says:

      One wonders how many other things the U.S. could dominate in if it wanted to deliver the full cornucopia of rackets. I think the Chinese learned a lot from us, that’s why they like to dump, steal ip, and subsidize the crap out of their technology sectors. The U.S. invented the modern version of the game, and then failed to play it all the way. At least we maintained dollar hegemony by bombing Libya and turning it into a carcass of civilization. Heaven forbid we lose currency domination, because how else would they be able to hand out welfare to all the American MVPs at the tippy top and marginally employed waifs at the bottom. At least most of the waifs used to have real jobs before this circus. What happens if all the rest of the zombie corps stop eating flesh and their employees are put out with the other waifs? Surely the Fed has a plan for this.

  17. Beans says:

    “As the analysis shows, these farm subsidies – taxpayer-funded welfare programs – like so many subsidies, give crumbs to small entities that might need the subsidies the most, and give the largest operations the lion’s share, whether they needed it or not, with many recipients not even working on a farm but living in big cities around the country.”

    Wealthfare. It is time to admit that this is how all gov transfer programs work. Medicaid, Medicare, ag, housing, you name it. Belief that gov subsidy programs exist to help anyone or anything other than the wealthy is foolish, willful blindness. The foolish and willfully blind people who advocate for the expansion of any gov program are fully convinced of their own virtuosity and intelligence, to the point that they only listen to what affirms their foolish belief. I’ve given up hope that articles like this will serve as a wake up call to them.

  18. Harrold says:

    His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any.

    The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow.

    The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce.

    Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done.

    He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county.

    Neighbours sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise.

    “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counselled one and all, and everyone said


    ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

    • Motorcycle Guy says:


      His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any.

      The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow.

      “The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce.

      Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. ”

      Thank you for the full snipit.

  19. MonkeyBusiness says:

    Oh man, what is this going to do to the narrative that it’s just the big fat cats getting subsidies?

    But this is aMErica. Two wrongs create even more wrongs.

  20. Escierto says:

    I am sure glad that the Emperor of America is draining the swamp.

  21. Bet says:

    Um. Not a guy. :). We were mandated to spray for boll weevils even though in our county there never had been. We had the insect traps where govt workers came out once a week to check. Then we had to harvest at a specified date so we had govt mandated defoliate sprays to kill the cotton by a certain date. The overspray killed any plants and deleafed any trees surrounding the fields. The crop dusters were kept busy all summer. Lots of local farmers did cotton that year. Tons and tons of chemicals were dumped. To give an example. One year I wanted to grow my own veggies. We had lovely high grade farm soil. I planted my tomatoes and peppers in my field soil. In three days they were all dead. The broadleaf herbicides sprayed on our fields killed all my potential food. I had to haul in my own top soil. Irony much? I grew corn. Wheat sorghum but could not grow food too eat.

  22. Bet says:

    Christie Whitman “ grew” Christmas trees on her estate. She was allowed farm deductions , I dunno about subsidies. In Texas the mohair ranchers have had subsidies since World War Two. It’s been tried for decades to kill that gift . No luck. Lots of fat
    Out there. Our farmer never took advantage , he was lucky to get crop insurance. Which constrained him in what crops we could grow. The rice farmers in Houston killed a fat hog a lot with their subsidies. It’s the corporate farms who really benefit.

    • Happy1 says:

      In Colorado, people graze goats for weed control on property in metro Denver to utilize the are property tax benefits, graze one or two days a year, complete scam.

  23. DOD spend their Covid supply budget on other stuff. They were probably short on cash after having funds raided for the border wall.

    • Lee says:


      Those funds that were ‘raided’ were for building construction and counternarcotic operations.

      Geez, the crap and lies people post because they have TDS.

      Do your research and get your ‘ducks in a row’ before posting.

  24. Charlie says:

    As a personal note, I grew up on a dairy and crops farm in the ’50’s and ’60’s and have been involved in agriculture all my life. I can remember dad selling wheat during that time where price never varied between 5-10 cents a bushel. That all changed in the “great Russian grain robbery” (as many called it) in 1972. This tripled wheat prices in a matter of a year. We were told by then Sec of Ag Earl Butz to plant “fence row to fence row” as we now entered a new era of global agriculture. Needless to say, supply and demand worked. Many more wheat acres came into production and within 5 years prices collapsed due to oversupply. The market swings took out many producers at that time. Then came the mid 1980’s when we again went through boom and bust, losing many more farmers in the mid 1980’s. I was involved in working with farmers with their bankers and was a gut wrenching time. The farm bills which run 4 to 5 years in length were changed in 1985 to start giving direct payments to farmers with guidelines on maximum amounts. There were arguments at that time as to why provide much assistance. In order to justify this politically, the food stamp program was increased in the farm bill. Today, food assistance makes up around 71% of the USDA budget while farm subsidies make up around 22%.


    The history of farm subsidies started in 1933 under FDR administration to provide a stable food supply at a time when 25% of the population were farmers. Today 1.3% of population are farmers, and farms have gotten much larger.

    The Europeans formed their own farm subsidy program after WW2. They knew what it was like to go hungry after two world wars, so they wanted a stable food supply. Over the years, subsidies were started in many countries, others used trade barriers to protect their local food supply. Today, in the EU and the US, the subsidy to increasingly large operations is very similar. I would guess that if this topic was presented on EU farm subsidies, comments would be exactly the same.

    So how do agriculture producers compete in a world market and is dominated by subsidies, tariffs, quota’s and the like? The trade distortions are everywhere. I agree that there is much waste and fraud when dealing with this type of money. Can you imagine the waste and fraud that Wolf exposes in banks, military, big tech all the time – it’s everywhere.

    I’ve lived through this in agriculture all my life. In the end, it boils down to human nature that will look for ways to exploit any way possible. Change human nature and you start to change this stuff. Enough said.

    • Lee says:

      My great-grandfather in North Dakota owned 16 sections (640 acres each) for a total of 10,240 acres.

      This farmland was passed down to his 12, yes, 12 surviving children. My grandfather got a section plus the farmstead house area.

      And when he and his wife died the remaining land was passed on to the their children.

      Of course, by this time the seperate parts of the farm estate were no longer viable to be farmed individually so it was rented out over the years.

      Some years were really good and others had deadbeats who signed the lease, but then didn’t pay resulting the land having no crop.

      So rather than go through the hassle of finding someone to rent it to evey year it was just put into some program that paid the owners not to grow.

      It finally got too much to handle and it was sold off for a price per acre that was so low that people would be surprised.

      End of my side of the family’s history of ‘farming’.

      We used to get milk, meat (beef, pork, chicken), eggs and vegetables fresh and canned) from the farm. Chasing the chickens around the yard was fun when I was a little kid and the pigs were very big and scary.

      By the way, did you know that pigs are great at disposing of bodies?

      They eat almost everything when they are hungry……………….

  25. Anthony A. says:

    Looking back at my career choices leads me to wish I should have been a farmer or a politician instead of an engineer.

  26. Noelck says:

    I believe 60 Minutes did a short story on this a little while back. One of the lawyer’s nickname was “Loophole”. He was so proud of incorporating these larger farms with 100’s of people so they could effectively get more subsidies.

    It is sad that this behavior is rewarded and the majority goes to the 1%. A lot like the PPP loans.

  27. sierra7 says:

    Roughly speaking, “Subsidies” and “Tax Evasion” schemes are big business in America………..
    Pity the poor slobs who can’t afford or participate in either……..
    Welcome to the real America!

  28. Anon1970 says:

    Farm subsidies for certain crops have been going to owners of farms (not to the minimum wage workers from Mexico) for decades. I am surprised to read that so many of you are surprised by these subsidies. The reality is that you don’t have to have any minimum knowledge of American civics in order to vote if you were born in this country. Naturalized Americans at least have to pass a citizenship test, which probably doesn’t cover farm subsidies anyway.

    Many countries provide subsidies for their farmers (or at least to the owners of the farms) indirectly by severely limiting imports of certain products e.g. diary products in Canada. On average, prices of milk, cheese and eggs are higher in Canada.

    • tom20 says:

      I thought it was a throwback article.
      City slickers, Hollywood stars, professional Athletes, buying up rural
      lands & jumping on the program holdouts.

      We have programs that pay us NOT to grow a crop.
      Not a bad racket for a city slicker. In vest in land, and get
      paid to do nothing with it.

      Oh that’s right, we did all this to save the “small farmer”.
      That worked out well. Now I watch a country destroy its food supply
      chain & economy. Hmmm.. wonder how this will workout?

  29. Cobalt Programmer says:

    Law of unintended consequences (Cobra effect in British India).
    Usually any subsidy/federal aid/grants and stimulus are reasonably well thought and rolled in to action for that time period. US population 70% were engaged in Agri/ related industries during 1840. Now, only <2%. Agriculture is increasingly performed by Big Ag, machines and immigrant labors. These subsidies were given to protect the livelihood of people who would loose against the Big Ag and Food conglomerates. Slowly over time, their intended purpose were outdated and non-existent. But you cannot stop it. As you and others told, most of the recipients live in city now.
    If the subsidies are removed, farmers might demand payment from the customers. Affected are the low-income, paycheck to paycheck people who do not have any savings. Even a budget increase of $50 a month would be a strain. Equally big Ag would swallow small farms. One good thing about the price control is, once US government brought wheat, milk products from farmers. But they cannot consume or process or store it. How much bread or cheese you can make? They put it in ships and send it poor countries like India (this is like 1960-70s). When there was food shortages, India get the wheat from US and ration to poor people.
    Sometimes, due to transit or poor logistics, the wheat will be expired for human consumption. Indian government would say, give this we can use it or process it as animal feed. But as per rules, you cannot deliver expired wheat. Guess where it went?

  30. Charlie says:

    Cobalt, your comments on India are decades “out of date”. India became self sufficient in wheat production in the late 1990’s. Who taught them how to grow wheat? The U.S. did through our AID program. I guess you can say that this program undercut US wheat producers? They have imported very little, if any wheat the last 10 years.


    India is now the 3rd largest wheat producer in the world behind the EU and China.


    I am thankful that we did teach a lot of the world how to grow wheat but at the expense of wheat markets for U.S. producers. Today, the worlds largest wheat exporter is…the Russians. When communism fell in 1991, the Russians then learned how to grow wheat and export it.

    Just trying to keep facts instead of opinion in front of everyone.

    • Cobalt Programmer says:

      Indeed. I mentioned that the in my comment that the supposed timeline as 60s-70s. The concept of US federal aid changed from buying wheat and other agri products to stabilize the markets, then dumping in to sea and then paying directly to farmers. Obviously India entered a “green revolution” period to get food production and reached food security around 1995. The price control of all food products are now in place in many other countries. Grains offer only a small margin.

  31. BenBer says:

    Oh come on! Its all helicopter money anyways!

  32. FarmBoy says:

    Seems like all those “Welfare Farmers” sure ain’t doing as great as the city folk think, when you understand like I do that the suicide rate is higher for farmers than all other occupations. Want another neat fact? Farming is one of the deadliest jobs in America. The career is twice as deadly as law enforcement, five times deadlier than firefighting, and 73 times more deadly than Wall Street investment banking, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    I currently live in a city of millions today, in which I hide the fact that I manage farms as city folk for some reason think farmers are welfare queens, yet my 2.5% ROI per year over the last 6 years,including the “Tariff Welfare” bullcrap that does not even hapy half the tariff damage, would prove them wrong. Yet I find it useless to debate as for some reason the MSM publishes innacurate “Farmer Welfare” stories daily. My only theory is it helps keep Americans divided further in a city versus rural sort of way, as keeping us all us 99%ers fighting and distracted sure would be usefull for the top 1% to keep control of everything, you think? Anyway, I grew up on a farm and was forbidden to continue to farm directly as it was such a stressful lifestyle for my parents, so I was required to get a college degree in anything other than farming. I still remember the bumper sticker on one of the farms trucks stating “If you are going to complain about farmers, don’t talk with you mouth full”. I’m sure most would realize that of all the silly services and products sold on this planet, there is only one product that humans actually NEED to survive…FooD (water is free). The irony is that once global warming get further out of hand, the 3-5 metric tons per acre carbon capture via farmland in the midwest will be one of the few ways to reverse the CO2 damage. I am looking forward to pepole complaining that farmers get paid to capture carbon in the future. Sure Apple can sell you a $1200 phone that cost $143 to manufacture, yet somehow farmers will be called welfare monsters for getting paid to fight global warming. Carbon Capture Welfare Queens perhaps???. According to NASA, the midwest farmland is the most productive region in the world during the summer months (again search “U.S. Corn Belt the Most Productive Region in the World”. So I regress, yet keep silent mostly as someday people will not look towards farmers with such contempt, as for Gods sake if it is so great, go buy some land and get some of that easy life fantasy.

    Per USA Today article on March 3, 2020 (Search “Midwest farmers face a crisis. Hundreds are dying by suicide.)

    U.S. farmers are saddled with near-record debt, declaring bankruptcy at rising rates and selling off their farms amid an uncertain future clouded by climate change and whipsawed by tariffs and bailouts.

    For some, the burden is too much.

    Farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide, compared with other occupations, according to a January study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found that suicide rates overall had increased by 40% in less than two decades.

    The problem has plagued agricultural communities across the nation, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Midwest, where extreme weather and falling prices have bludgeoned dairy and crop producers in recent years.

    • FarmBoy says:

      And the kicker from USATODAY article:

      Even the $28 billion in federal aid provided by the Trump administration over two years wasn’t enough to erase the fallout from the trade war with China, many farmers said.

      It’s not the first time that Washington’s efforts to help farmers have fallen short.



    • Wolf Richter says:


      1. You’re signing in under different names — many of them very funny. A few months ago, when it suited you, you were “TexasHospitalWorker.” I don’t have a problem with logging in under different names, and I enjoy the humor too, except now you use this to claim expertise about farming when in fact you simply cite stuff you gleaned from the mass media.

      2. The point of the article: most farmers don’t get much, if anything, and a few large operations get the lion’s share, and people who aren’t even working on farms but live in cities get some of those payments. So yes, there are farmers who are desperate, and need support, but aren’t getting it — that’s what the article is about … that the money doesn’t go to where it is needed.

      • MinimalBrainDamage says:

        Wolf – I post only at anonymous sites such as this blog. Nothing I have stated is false information, I input creative user names to fight my never ending boredom. (“I” am not a hospital worker, yet someone in my intermediate circle ‘IS”). I own multiple farms in two midwest states as part of my retirement investments, which is one of my investments that helped me retire early, even at only 2.5% avg ROI. I would be happy to answer any and all question you may have about farm programs, farming in general, etc (for example I made 2% ROI in 2019, and the $67/acre corn “Govt welfare” payment covered about 50% of the loss due to tariffs, as note it cost about $585/acre inputs to plant one acre of corn so “the bailout” covered about 11% of input costs). I used to own a product design company, used to heavily day trade, etc. I get mercilessly bored easily due to MBD–> “(M)inimal (B)rain (D)amage

        Thanks for letting me post. You used to block most of my stuff, as it was a little much when you used to be less forgiving for getting off topic.


      • Mira says:

        Several years ago now at 2:00 AM, I sat in the foyer of my local Coles Store Coburg with my shopping, wondering why the price of olive oil was double the price of canola oil.
        From the clearing of the land to the bottle of oil on the SMart self .. canola oil costs 10 times more to manufacture.
        So .. why are we paying more for olive oil ??
        A 4 litre can of Moro olive oil was $32.00.
        I sent this puzzling question to 2 Environmental Economists in the US & to a prominent agnostic & atheist expert in NY.
        3 months later I walked into my local Coles store at midnight & standing there was a cardboard cut-out of a 4 litre can of Moro olive oil at the new price of $16.00.
        How did this happen !!
        Miracles really do happen !!
        Did this price drop just in Australia ??
        No .. in the US also & maybe across the world.
        In Australia the Australian Olive Growing Industry was about to shut down .. why ?? .. because consumers could not afford the too high price of olive oil.
        Needless to say .. the drop in price caused consumers to buy & the olive growing industry in Australia was saved.
        I kid you not .. the olive growers were ready to pull up their olive trees .. olive trees that produce fruit for a thousand years .. also Australia was now exporting quality Olive oil to Spain who were experiencing shortages.
        Canola oil is subsidised to an insane extent .. MONEY TO BURN insanity

      • DJ says:

        Good catch, I was wondering about that post.

      • FarmBoy says:

        Wolf – send me an email if you would like a logical debate to point “2.” you made above. I am not comfortable posting in public. I think you might be surprised what is happening with small and big farmers, I can give you a farmboy view from the large city setting I reside that helps bridge the gap of understanding that is difficult unless you have lived both worlds. Your choice, but I have something typed that I would send if you reply to the email I listed via this post.

        Thank You,



Comments are closed.