Subsidies to Farmers Reaches Over $40 Billion This Year
At the end of 2020, federal payments to farmers are projected to hit $46 billion, a record amount. The American Farm Bureau, a lobbying group representing the American agriculture industry, projected that debt in the farm sector is expected to increase by 4%, totaling a record $434 billion this year. According to The New York Times (NYT), 40% of total farm income for this year is from governmental support.
“Direct government payments to farmers are likely to exceed $40 billion in 2020,” said Pat Westhoff, director of the FAPRI think tank at the University of Missouri. “These record payments support farm income in a year when cash receipts from sales of agricultural commodities have been reduced by the COVID pandemic and other factors.”
Many speculate if these payments have something to do with the upcoming Presidential election. “For the first time in history, a president has repeatedly usurped congressional authority in order to personally dispense tens of billions of dollars in federal farm subsidy payments that would not otherwise have been paid,” Ken Cook, President of Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that has been tracking the agriculture payments, told NYT. “This is an authoritarian power grab used to buy political support from voters who are essential to his re-election.” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue denied these claims though, instead saying, “President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel, and fiber America needs to thrive.”
Some farmers have expressed frustration that the small producers are not receiving these subsidies. Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin farmer and President of the Family Farm Defenders Organization told NYT, “Even though society believes that these programs help farmers, the money very rarely gets to farmers. Rural America is not seeing that money because it’s not getting here.” Greeno also stated that the funds are going to wealthy landowners and corporate agriculture companies.