Quantcast

50 Billionaires Receive $6.3 Million in Federal Farm Subsidies

Food

Think federal farm subsidies only help out struggling family farmers? Think again.

Fifty members of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans—banking tycoon David Rockefeller Sr., Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, stockbroker Charles Schwab and dozens of other billionaires—received at least $6.3 million in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2014, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis. And these fat cats likely received even more subsidies through the federal crop insurance program.

Think federal farm subsidies only help out struggling family farmers? Think again.

EWG matched EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database with the Forbes 400 list. We found that the billionaires who received farm subsidies between 1995 and 2014 have a collective net worth of $331.4 billion, based on Forbes’ estimates of their wealth.

Some of the other notable members of the 1 percent who got farm subsidies include Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the owners of three professional sports teams and the founder of the Bass Pro sporting goods empire.

Of the 50 billionaires, 46 grow corn, soybeans, sorghum, cotton, rice and barley—commodities that are eligible for both traditional farm subsidies and crop insurance subsidies. Only two of the billionaires exclusively raise livestock, which aren’t eligible for subsidies but qualify for disaster assistance.

Traditional commodity subsidies are subject to a modest means test that was tightened under the 2014 Farm Bill. Unlike traditional commodity subsidies, however, crop insurance subsidies can benefit any farmer—regardless of income—and the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t have to make the names of crop insurance beneficiaries public. So, taxpayers—and Congress—have no way of knowing whether farms owned or operated by billionaires get crop insurance premium support.

On average, taxpayers cover 62 percent of the cost of crop insurance premiums. The net cost of crop insurance is estimated at $8.8 billion a year over the past three years.

A recent EWG investigation found that more than 10,000 individual farming operations received annual insurance premium support ranging from $100,000 to $1 million and 26 operations each received more than $1 million.

Like other farm subsidies, the lion’s share of crop insurance subsidies flow to the most successful farm businesses. According to data EWG compiled from USDA, the top 1 percent of crop insurance subsidy recipients received on average nearly $227,000 a year in crop insurance premium support in 2011—while the bottom 80 percent of recipients received only about $5,000 a year.

Click here or the preview chart below to view the full list of 50 billionaires.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Glyphosate Found in Popular Breakfast Foods

300+ Arrested in Mass Civil Disobedience Protests at the Nation’s Capitol

Is the Seafood You Eat Caught by Slaves?

Scientists Start to Look at Ground Beneath Their Feet for Solution to Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less