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

Investing in grid infrastructure would enable utilities to incorporate modern technology, making the grid more resilient and flexible. STRATMAN2 / FLICKR

By Elliott Negin

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.

Read More Show Less
Two Javan rhinos deep in the forests of Ujung Kulon National Park, the species' last habitat on Earth. Sugeng Hendratno / WWF

By Basten Gokkon

The global population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros has increased to 72 after four new calves were spotted in the past several months.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A tiger looks out from its cage at a new resort and zoo in the eastern Lao town of Tha Bak on Dec. 5, 2018. Karl Ammann believes the "zoo" is really a front for selling tigers. Terrence McCoy / The Washington Post / Getty Images

Are tigers extinct in Laos?

That's the conclusion of a detailed new study that found no evidence wild tigers still exist in the country.

Read More Show Less

A group of scientists is warning that livestock production must not expand after 2030 for the world to stave off ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less
The largest wetland in Africa is in the South Sudan. George Steinmetz / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images Plus

Methane emissions are a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – about 28 times more powerful. And they have been rising steadily since 2007. Now, a new study has pinpointed the African tropics as a hot spot responsible for one-third of the global methane surge, as Newsweek reported.

Read More Show Less