About the 2002 Farm Bill
As the debate on a new Farm Bill began, most farmers had lost faith in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act and emergency spending legislation. While Congress dealt out record high crop subsidies under these laws, USDA countered that much of them may actually be helping corporate sized farms buy out their smaller neighbors the very farms Congress was trying to save (USDA Taking Stock for the New Century, page 6).
With this realization came pronouncements from many Midwest legislators that crop subsidy reforms were needed, such as capping subsidies to the largest of corporate agribusinesses. Moreover, as other legislators from around the country discovered on EWG's farm subsidy database how little farm bill support their farmers were getting, they also vowed to push for reform -- mainly by pushing for funding increases to the farmland conservation programs.
Throughout the farm bill debate, newspaper editorial pages and the public clearly favored reform. And, the Senate actually listened by passing legislation that held promise for making the situation better. However, when legislators went behind closed doors to negotiate the final version of the legislation in conference, they bowed to pressure from "status quo" agribusiness lobbyists, leaving major reform efforts on the cutting room floor.
Who benefits from the 2002 farm bill?
The same people who have always benefitted -- the top 10 percent of the biggest farms, mostly large corporate sized agribusinesses that need taxpayer money the least, will continue to collect at least two-thirds of the $125 billion budgeted for crop subsidies over the next ten years. EWG will continue to post subsidy data on its website to show the continuing trend.
Who is left out?
According to U.S. Agricultural Census data, more than 60 percent of U.S. farms do not grow any of the ten subsidized crops (primarily grains and cotton), so they wont benefit from crop subsidies.
Farmland conservation programs benefit all farmers and landowners, but especially those who operate medium to small sized farms. Unfortunately, Congress shortchanged these programs only 23 percent of total farm spending, which could total about $171 billion, was devoted to them. While Congress provided a modest increase, many expect it will be outstripped by heavy demand from farmers and landowners around the country. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has a growing $2.5 billion backlog in applications for farmland conservation assistance.
What's the net effect?
devoting so much taxpayer money to subsidizing corporate sized farms that
already overproduce grains and cotton, the crop subsidy programs will
continue to spur too much production, depress crop prices and further
concentrate farm ownership in the hands of a few. Congress missed the
opportunity to enact real crop subsidy reforms and make the conservation
programs an integral part of assisting all family farms accross the country.
Information on the 2002 Farm Bill and Impacts
From USDA's Economic Research Service
Information on selected programs and the 2002 Farm Bill.