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Top 10 Urban 'Farmers'

Created on July 16, 2007

Top 10 Urban 'Farmers'

Congress Can Prepare Soil for Sane Farm Policies

A total of 55 farmers cashed federal crop subsidies worth more than $1 million each in 2003 through 2005.

The program that began as a "temporary solution" to an "emergency" - collapsing farm incomes during the Great Depression - now looks more like a strike-it-rich scheme for agribusiness.

"Current farm policies are obscenely expensive, doling out $25 billion in subsidies each year," says Brian M. Riedl, an expert on the federal budget with The Heritage Foundation. "Most of the money goes to commercial farms, where average household income is $199,975 and average net worth is almost $2 million.

"If Washington really wants to help struggling farmers, as the subsidies are promoted as doing, it would be far cheaper just to hand every full-time farmer $40,000 a year," Riedl notes.

Ten percent of subsidy recipients collect three-fourths of the money - about $91,000 a year per farm. Those in the "bottom 80 percent" receive less than $3,000 a year, according to the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database.

Meanwhile, Riedl notes, the typical American family forks over $322 a year in taxes to pay for the subsidies. He says Washington should stop pandering to special-interest groups and let the free-market law of supply and demand work.

Heritage's latest research on farm subsidies arrives as lawmakers consider how to reauthorize the policies, now set to expire in September.

For details on the subsidies, visit heritage.org.