Wealthy Farmers Harvesting Subsidies from Sixty Overlapping Federal Programs

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – “Wealthy farmers are harvesting subsidies from sixty similar, overlapping and duplicative federal programs,” U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) said in response to a newly released report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled, “Farmers Have Been Eligible for Multiple Programs and Further Efforts Could Help Prevent Duplicative Payments,” which reveals that many of the largest and wealthiest farms in America benefit from multiple, overlapping farm program payments.  

GAO’s report notes that national net farm income increased from $83.7 billion in 2008 to $113.8 billion in 2012, and is forecast to have reached a record of $130.5 billion in 2013. During the 2008-2012 time period, seven USDA agencies obligated $173 billion in farm payments through sixty programs. The report further highlights the sprawling bureaucracy across farm support programs and identifies several areas where duplicative payments are occurring or at risk of occurring in the future. Finally, GAO stated “Larger farms or farms producing cash grains such as corn were more likely to receive payments from multiple programs than small farms or farms producing other crops. Larger farms also received more crop insurance premium subsidies than other farms.”

“I am disappointed that Congress recently missed a historic opportunity with the Farm Bill to ensure a robust and efficient farm safety net. Instead, it made only cosmetic changes to the extensive system. With a national debt that now threatens the future well-being of all Americans, Congress has a responsibility to address GAO’s findings and ensure the safety net for our nation’s farmers is functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible, not merely providing benefit to those who need the least assistance.” Dr. Coburn said.

GAO concluded there was sufficient evidence of overlap between the sixty USDA programs available to farmers, and recommended controls be put in place to avoid duplicative payments in the future.