Budget Boondoggle Award

Multi-Millionaire Farmers Reap What the Taxpayer Sows

More than 2,700 farmers with incomes exceeding $2.5 million a year have received farm subsidy payments from the Federal Government, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office [GAO]. It is another example of wasteful government spending – a kind of reverse-Robin-Hood transfer payment – earning the latest Budget Boondoggle Award.

Among the highlights of the GAO report:

  • In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] handed over $49 million taxpayer dollars to 2,702 farmers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $2.5 million.
  • The USDA actually identified 87 of these individuals as ineligible for payments – but paid them anyway!
  • Nine of the subsidy recipients did not even reside in the U.S. Payments were mailed to addresses in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, among other locations.
  • One founder and former executive of an insurance company received more than $300,000 in payments over a 4-year period. An executive with a technology company received nearly $1 million in payments over the same time.
  • An individual with an ownership interest in a professional sports team received more than $200,000 in payments over a 4-year period.
  • Seventy-eight percent of the ineligible recipients lived in or near metropolitan areas – hardly the rugged agrarians of farm program mythology – continuing the USDA’s trend of paying urban farmers instead of those who actually toil on the soil.

Thus, while “wealthy” people earning $250,000 a year may worry about a forthcoming tax hike, they can make up for it by taking up farming. That way they can legally collect taxpayer-funded subsidies while earning up to $2.5 million a year – and even more if the USDA fails to fix this persistent boondoggle.

Read the full report here.