Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group released a scathing assessment of the Trump administration’s farm bailout program, which has disbursed billions to assist farmers hurt by the president’s quixotic trade war with China.
The EWG was able to analyze some $8.4 billion in payments thanks to records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. To nobody’s surprise, the farm bailouts work exactly like Trump’s tax cuts: The benefits accrue disproportionately to the rich.
“Farm bailout payments designed to offset the impacts of President’s Trump’s trade war have overwhelmingly flowed to the largest and most successful farmers”, EWG said in July.
Fast forward to November and Trump continues to suggest that farmers are very happy with being forced onto government welfare.
“Our great Farmers will recieve another major round of ‘cash,’ compliments of China Tariffs, prior to Thanksgiving”, Trump tweeted last weekend, misspelling “receive” and lying to the public for the umpteenth time (China does not pay the tariffs).
“The smaller farms and farmers will be big beneficiaries”, he went on to insist. “Enjoy!”
Well, according to a new analysis by EWG, “Trump’s Thanksgiving promise to help small farmers will be a big turkey without making major changes and closing loopholes in the bailout program”.
That is an actual quote from a piece published on Thursday. According to the most recent data, the top 10% of aid recipients (which EWG notes are “the largest, most profitable industrial-scale farms in the country”) got half of the $6 billion in payments made from August to the end of October. Three of those recipients got more than $1 million each, and 45 of them more than $500,000.
“The richest of the rich, the top 1% of recipients, received 13% of payments [for] an average payment of more than $177,000, but the bottom 80% of recipients, including small farmers, got an average payment of $5,136″, EWG said, on the way to reminding you that “laughably lax eligibility rules allow cousins, nieces and nephews and far-flung relatives living in cities, with no real connection to farming, to cash government bailout checks”.
If you’re wondering whether people connected to Trump and also billionaires are “cashing in” (as EWG puts it) the answer “of course!”
In fact, more than a dozen members of the president’s Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee (an agribusiness council that advised Trump while he was still on the campaign trail) have received payments totaling – get this – $2.2 million from the program.
As you can see, some were more “lucky” than others. Kip Tom, for example, got more than a half-million and (wouldn’t you know it) he was also appointed ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture.
Last month, the Associated Press reported that Justice Farms of North Carolina “maxed out” its capacity to tap taxpayer farm subsidies, milking the program (no pun intended) for a cool $125,000.
That doesn’t sound all that egregious (well, besides being more than double the median household income) until you learn that it went to a business owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a billionaire, and (literally) the richest person in the entire state.
“The company took in $121,398 in subsidies for soybeans and $3,602 for corn for farms on property it owns in West Virginia”, AP reported, citing records provided under the FOIA. “Both figures far exceed the program’s median payments: $6,438 for soybeans and $152 for corn”.
You get the idea. This is, like most of Trump’s initiatives, largely a farce which, either by accident or by design (and this is a case where it’s probably a bit of both), benefits the wealthy while leaving average Joe with crumbs.
Maybe instead of taking Trump’s advice, farmers would do better to listen to Global Times editor Hu Xijin, who on Wednesday tweeted this:
So a friendly reminder to American farmers: Don’t rush to buy more land or get bigger tractors. Wait until a China-US trade deal is truly signed and still valid six months after. It’s safer then.