The tentacles of farm subsidies

The Senate has turned aside an attempt by Sen. Amy Klobuchar to throttle back farm subsidies.

The farm bill is big — real big; so big that some people believe it’s time to scrap an outmoded system. Others wonder why some elements of agriculture need to be subsidized to the present extent. Does one farm in Minnesota really need the $9 subsidy for safflowers?

How closely followed is the issue of farm subsidies? Here’s a Google map on the Environmental Working Group’s Web site that shows farm-related businesses. Each blue dot represents an actual agricultural business.Each red dot represents anyone who benefitted from the subsidies. (Go to the Web site and zoom in on the map.)

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Lots of people get money from the farm bill, but not a lot of people get a lot of money from the bill. According to the USDA, 66 percent of the $2.13 billion sent to Minnesota, went to 10 percent of the beneficiaries.

For the first time, according to Web site owner Ken Cook, who, certainly, has a point of view, the USDA is making it easier to find out who gets the money.


For instance, we continue to find that farm program benefits are highly concentrated in the hands of a small minority of subsidized individuals and operations, even after multi-million-dollar payments to large cooperatives have been disaggregated and attributed to individuals.

He’s also got the numbers. Here are the top farm businesses in Minnesota — out of the 4,690 who benefitted — between 2003 and 2005.:

Farm Business Location Crop Subsidy ’03-’05
Hader Farms Partnership Zumbrota $2,583,872
Molitor Brothers Farm Cannon Falls $2,103,641
Hector Farms II Partnership Hector $1,401,931
Sunset Farms Freeborn County Albert Lea $1,310,970
Sanders Farms Truman $1,289,426
Vipond Farms Norcross $1,079,388
Two Dogs Farm Benson $1,016,833
Far Gaze Farms Northfield $975,111
Bunne Farms Ostrander $941,642
Ger-bes Enterprises Hastings $867,036

The relationship between farmers and politicians is pretty hard to miss.

For example:

Members of the Stamer family — Hector Farms — donated $30,516, mostly to a political action fund for sugar beat beet farmers that was a heavy contributor to the 2002 campaign of Sen. Norm Coleman, former congressmen Gil Gutknecht, and Mark Kennedy, current Reps. John Kline, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, Collin Peterson and — wait for it — current Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Michael Stamer, of Willmar, is the third-largest beneficiary of farm programs in the state, garnering over $561,000 over the period, behind only the University of Minnesota and the Big Stone Farmer Coop.

Gary Pestorius (Sunset Farms) is a contributor to Sen. Norm Coleman’s re-election effort, as well as a PAC that contributes to Peterson’s and Oberstar’s campaign. He’s chairman of a company that runs an ethanol plant. Dawn Pestorius is also a Coleman contributor.

Principals in Vipond Farms contributed to a PAC that has handed out money to Coleman, Klobuchar and many of the others previously mentioned.

Robert Lange of Two Dogs farm is a contributor to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Wanda Lange was a Bush-Cheney contributor.

Related information: Talk of the Nation program on farm subsides (12/11/07)

Washington Post: Sugar industry expands influence (11/3/07)

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