Organic Consumers Association


Previous Page

Click here to print this page

Make a Donation!


USDA Hiding Names of Rice & Grain Coops Sucking Up A Billion Dollars in Taxpayer Subsidies

From: <


OCTOBER 3, 2005 3:25 PM
CONTACT: Environmental Working Group
EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982

EWG to USDA: Release Co-op Members' Names
USDA Tries to Shield Identity of Big Subsidy Recipients Who Got Nearly $1 Billion from Taxpayers

WASHINGTON - From 1995 to 2003, taxpayers sent nearly $1 billion of their money in subsidies to four agribusiness co-ops, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is resisting efforts by Environmental Working Group (EWG) to inform the public of who actually received the money. Today EWG is appealing the USDA's rejection of the group's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the names of co-op members who make up four of the nation's top five farm subsidy recipients over a nine-year period.

USDA officials have resisted EWG's pursuit of the information for its heavily used farm subsidy database ( on the grounds of recipient "privacy," despite the fact that the agency lost a court case and has been forced over the past several years to provide EWG with the data for tens of millions of farm subsidy recipients, including their names, states, towns, zip codes and more. By refusing to reveal the names of subsidy recipients who hide behind corporate shields, USDA is creating a double standard for these individuals that has no basis in law or regulation. EWG has made its searchable database of farm subsidy recipients free and open to the public. It shows that of the five largest farm subsidy recipients from 1995-2003, four are huge co-ops, which together took in $982,879,515. The co-ops are Riceland Foods, Inc.; Producers Rice Mill, Inc.; Farmers' Rice Cooperative; and Cenex Harvest States.

"According to USDA, then, it's OK to list individuals' names or their companies' names, but if a group of farmers form a co-op, then they are shielded from the taxpayers who pay them?" EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles asked. "We think taxpayers have a right to know who cashed our nearly billion dollar check — especially when we're trying to figure out how to reduce these skyrocketing federal deficits."

Later this week EWG will release farm subsidy figures for 2004, the latest year's data available.