President Trump is forcing the nation’s taxpayers to subsidize his reckless tariffs with a $12 billion giveaway to farmers. Even though Trump’s punishing tariffs are a huge mistake, one could argue that farmers alone shouldn’t bare the resulting economic pain Trump inflicted upon them.
Protecting and preserving small family farms has always been an important goal of Democrats. That’s why revelations that the bulk of the Trump bailout is benefiting rich individuals, wealthy investors, large corporations, and farm-estate heirs rather than small farmers is simply unacceptable.
According to the Environmental Working Group, in the first round of bailout payments made at the end of October, 68% of the checks went to the top 10% of farm households. Perhaps more concerning, 1,000 of the current recipients didn’t even live on a farm. They are distant big city residents who never drive a tractor and are often absentee farm owners.
Forcing American taxpayers to subsidize billionaires is nothing new. Small farms make up 90 percent of all farms, yet in 2016 they only received 27 percent of the commodity payments. They only received 17 percent of crop-insurance protection payments. Since 1995, nearly 75 percent of all farm payments have gone to the richest and largest 10 percent. Farm programs shouldn’t be manipulated to transfer taxpayer money to make millionaires and billionaires richer. Trump’s current farm bailout is a continuation of this travesty.
In 2017, over 20,000 (faux farmers) residents living in some of America’s largest cities received farm payments. They are individuals such as billionaire Glen Taylor, who owns farmland in Northwest Iowa. Glen Taylor is the owner of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves, WNBA Lynx, the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis and numerous other businesses. Taylor received $116,500 in farm subsidies in 2017. Does anyone really think Taylor should qualify as a working farmer?
Trump has the discretion to limit maximum payments to $125,000 as the USDA originally set out in the bailout announcement. However, neither a maximum limit or a means test has been enforced.
In this first round of bailout payments made in October, 85 recipients (3 in Iowa) exceeded the $125,000 maximum. The largest single farm conglomerate in Louisiana received $439,000. How can anyone justify a single farm owner receiving nearly half a million dollars in taxpayer money? The top 10 recipients (farmers) received nearly $3.5 million in bailout money.
The current means test is supposed to prohibit payments to any one farm household with adjusted gross income above $900,000 per year ($1.5 million for a married couple). It certainly appears this is being ignored.
The second round of payments will be made in December and will total $4.7 billion. Many of these same wealthy non-farmer recipients may receive additional funds in the next payout.
While these corporate giants are siphoning off the bulk of taxpayer funds, small farmers are suffering. The Register reported on payments to Iowa farmers after the October payments:
“Some checks will barely cover the cost of a Starbucks coffee for a few growers. About 100 of the nearly 4,300 payments to Iowa farmers through October are less than $25, according to data from the Environmental Working Group. Twenty-four Iowa farmers snagged less than $10, with 11 getting $5 or less. Overall, the average payment to farmers is $7,236, based on the Washington, D.C., group’s data. Iowa growers will receive $550 million in the bailout, an ISU study shows, with the overall hit from tariffs to the state’s economy reaching $2 billion.”
Trump’s tariffs have severely damaged the nation’s agricultural sector by punishing our best customers and destroying free market trade. The prices farmers receive for their corn, soybean, hogs and other commodities have tanked as Trump’s tariffs have punished our worldwide customers. Add the inequality in the bailout payments and Trump has damaged Iowa and the nation’s agricultural sector for years to come.
Why are Senator Ernst and Grassley MIA and silent as Trump raids the U.S. treasury to reward the richest farmers-in-name-only? Why are they allowing money designated to help struggling small and medium farmers to go to the richest farm entities?
Senator Grassley is a farm owner and has said he plans to accept his bailout payment. “This is something you get because you are a farmer — equal treatment for everybody,” Grassley said.
by Rick Smith