Report: Millions in farm subsidies go to dead farmers

You can’t take it with you when you die but you can keep making money after you’re gone if you’re a farmer.

The Economist reports that between 2008 and 2012, the United States paid $10.6 million in crop subsidies to farmers who had been dead for over a year.

American farm subsidies are egregiously expensive, harvesting $20 billion a year from taxpayers’ pockets. Most of the money goes to big, rich farmers producing staple commodities such as corn and soyabeans in states such as Iowa.

Few politicians are inclined to vote against farm subsidies: though farmers make up only a small number of voters, even in agricultural states, they are loud and organised enough to punish lawmakers who vote against a farm bill. Opposition to spending is muted; few voters realise how much of their money is given to farmers and even fewer would change their vote because of it.

Most of the money for farm subsidies goes to wealthy farmers, The Economist says. And it indicates the situation is going to get worse as crop prices plummet because the harvests have been far too bountiful.

Minnesota ranks fourth in farm subsidies. Ten percent of farmers received 62 percent of available subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group.

  • MrE85
  • MrE85
  • Bryan

    I’ve seen huge corporate farms that make a lot of money. They also collect subsidies.
    I haven’t met a lot of rich farmers.

    • Of those farmers you HAVE met, have you looked at their financials?

      • Kassie

        While I haven’t looked at the financials, I know that the two farmers I know under 40 both have to have second full time jobs, plus their wives work full time, to keep it going. I also know that we see a lot of farmers on the welfare programs like MinnesotaCare and SNAP, which have pretty low income limits.

        • Pup

          OK, and I know two people under 40 who inherited money from the sale of their grandparents’ farm that allowed them to pay off their house. So which anecdote should we believe?

          • Jack Ungerleider

            They are not mutually exclusive. If the farmers that Kassie refers to sold their farms they may have the wealth your example has.

          • Ron Akkerman

            All just speculation, but we would have to know how much debt is on the property. Early retirement if it is free and clear, back to work if it is highly mortgaged, or even upside down.

          • Jerry

            Both. Farmers tend to have few liquid assets because their wealth is tied up in land and equipment.

          • It’s very much like owning a sports team, I suspect.

          • Jerry

            Or, you know, most people who own their own business.

          • Ron Akkerman

            Do you know any rich team owners? (just kidding)

          • Ron Akkerman

            reminds me of an anecodote: I have a friend who worked for a team owner, and they were at a business function and the owner made the comment to him to the effect : Don’t ever own a baseball team, it’s too much trouble. He didn’t have the courage to reply: thanks for the advice, I’ll buy something else.

          • Ron Akkerman

            One difference being we farmers primarily produce and sell commodities and are “price takers”, Sports teams can choose prices and produce a relatively unique, branded product which is a service.

      • Ron Akkerman

        While there are “rich” farmers out there, from my experience they didn’t get rich from Govt subsidies.

  • KTN

    Ah the welfare class. Keep giving to those who while freely accept their handout, no doubt chastise others who do the same thing, but in some cases actually need a little financial help from the government. No hypocrisy there right. What is that conservatives like to say, something about the free market.

  • Gary F

    why do farmers wear ball caps with rounded brims? Because it fits perfectly in their mailbox when looking for their government check.

    • MrE85

      No more food for you, pal.

      • The USDA’s mohair subsidy was put in place because Army uniforms were made of mohair. Uniforms aren’t made of mohair anymore.

        There is still a subsidy and loan program for mohair producers.

        • MrE85

          I blame Angora goats, and their powerful lobby. 😉

    • Ron Akkerman

      How did the Farmer double her income? She put up a second mailbox.

    • DJ Wambeke

      Why do they only bury farmers a couple feet underground?

      So they can still get their handout…!

      • DJ Wambeke

        The above, by the way, was always one of my dad’s favorite jokes. And he was a hog farmer.

  • Kassie

    Without knowing more about the dead farmers, I’m not going to get too outraged. Is the money actually going to dead farmers? Or is the money going to the estate of dead farmers who have their wife/kids still running the farm while probate works out? What are the actual details of these dead farmers? How much is then paid back as overpayments or through fraud findings?

  • Pup

    Elsewhere in the world (China, etc.) people leave rural areas to find opportunity in cities. But in our country, we seem to think this lifestyle needs to be subsidized because that’s where the “Real Americans” live.

    • MrE85

      Since you bring up the rest of the world, many farmers in Europe and Japan have long been subsidized by their governments, too. It’s not just an American thing.

  • Ron Akkerman

    the subsidies primarily support/inflate the value of farmland. The landowner gets most of the subsidy in the form of inflated cash rents, unless they are willing to rent on a share basis.

  • Xdfben

    Hi- I’m a farmer. Even though we own 250 acres and grow crops on 150 of it, I am considered a ‘hobby farm’. My total subsides last year was about $4000. That covers not quite half of my seed bill. Or about half of my fertilizer bill.
    It would cover 500 gallons of diesel fuel. ($1500).
    I’m not getting rich from those payments.
    The bigger the farmer, the bigger the bills.

  • Rich in Duluth

    I may be mistaken, but I think that the origin of farm subsidies was an effort to make producing strategic foods such as wheat, corn, rice, etc, profitable enough to the U.S. farmer, to maintain production here in the U.S. This way, we don’t have to rely on foreign producers, who may be able to produce them cheaper, make us dependent on them, and, thus, have leverage over us as foreign oil producers have had.

    It would seem that supporting farmers is worth the security this provides us…although, certainly, we should stop payments to dead farmers.

    • Some are paid not to grow anything, apparently, at least according to The Economist..

      Apparently there are a fair number of farmers on New York’s upper East Side.

      • Jerry

        quite often for conservation purposes

        • ““The crop insurance program is terrible budget policy,” says William Frenzel, a 10-term Republican representative from Minnesota who served on the House Budget Committee and now analyzes fiscal issues at the Brookings Institution. “It’s the kind of congressional back-scratching that got us into our debt and deficit situation.”

          also from the article:

          “Subsidized insurance also gives farmers an incentive to plant on land where crops may or may not flourish, he said, adding that he knew individuals in South Dakota who are “farming the program” with the intent of making an insurance claim rather than harvesting a crop.

          The program’s formula for determining insurance premiums also “has created brittle farming operations that lack resilience and a spiral of ever-increasing taxpayer-subsidized” losses, according to an August report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group.”

          • Jerry

            You can’t mention being paid to grow nothing and crop insurance as the same thing. They are seperate programs. Crop insurance exists to protect farmers from disastrous harvests and the farmers mentioned in those anecdotes are gaming the system. When people talk about “being paid to grow nothing” they are usually thinking of the diverted acres and CRP programs which exist to take farmland out of production. This is done either to limit yields or to restore the soil and protect marginal land. The term “subsidies” is too broad and fairly misleading. Much like the term welfare.

          • I never said crop insurance and price supports and being paid to grow nothing are the same thing.

          • Jerry

            But if you follow the thread here, you certainly seem to imply it

          • You might have concluded that. I did not imply that.