Iowa farmers: $1.3 billion in subsidies

State ranks second in nation

Iowa farmers received $1.3 billion in subsidies last year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to data released Thursday by the non-profit Environmental Working Group.

Iowa ranks second in the nation in terms of farm subsidies, with 8.7 percent of the total in 2011.

Texas leads all states at $1.4 billion in subsidies, or 9.5 percent of the overall amount.

Iowa farmers  received $23.6 billion in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2011, according to the data, which is drawn from USDA records.

The USDA subsidies for Iowa farmers between 1995 and 2011 break down to $15.9 billion in commodity subsidies; $3.47 billion in crop insurance subsidies;  $3.63 billion in conservation subsidies; and $587 million in disaster subsidies.

The top five Iowa recipients of farm subsidies in 2011 were Premier Grain Farms of Walker, $249,482; Pla-ground Family Farms of Alexander, $238,832; Greenview Farms of De Witt, $199,451; I-80 Farms of Colfax, $192,000; and Vierkandt Farms of Alden, $160,000.

The top five Linn County recipients of farm subsidies last year were Blackford Brothers of Marion, $73,366; Meythaler Farms Inc. of Marion, $40,000; John Munier of Springville, $40,000; Dennis J. Price of Coggon, $40,000; and Maxwell Valley Inc. of Central City, $40,000.

In Johnson County, the top five recipients of farm subsidies in 2011 were Jcs Family Farms of Iowa City, $51,614; Fobian Bros of Iowa City, $42,180; Black Diamond Farms Inc. of Iowa City, $37,255; a farm owned by a cooperative whose identity and location was not disclosed by USDA, $35,392; and Clint Rarick of Oxford, $36,116.

The Environmental Working Group said USDA data are not "transparent" for many payments made to recipients through most cooperatives. Recipients of payments made through most cooperatives, and the amounts, have not been made public.

Further, the USDA has exempted from disclosure the names of beneficial owners of farms receiving subsidies. Congress has barred the release of information about recipients receiving crop insurance subsidies.

The data released Thursday shows  23 members of Congress, or their family members, received $6.2 million of farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2011.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is listed as receiving $316,535 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2011. Grassley has proposed limits on the adjusted gross income used to calculate crop subsidies and crop insurance subsidies.

Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, received $332,446 during the same period. Farmers in Latham's congressional district received $6.34 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2011.

Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa,  received $16,235 in subsidy payments between 2001 and 2008. Farmers in Boswell's congressional district received $2.28 billion of USDA commodity, crop insurance, conservation and  disaster payments  between 1995 and 2011.

The farm bill recently approved by the U.S. Senate would do away with direct payments to farmers, which total about $5 billion a year. However, the bill includes a provision to replace those subsidies with an entitlement that would guarantee income for the same recipients who have benefited from the lion’s share of traditional farm subsidies.

The distribution of farm subsidies among lawmakers reflects the disbursement of farm subsidies in the United States. Five crops – corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans – account for 90 percent of all farm subsidies.

Since 1995,  10 percent of subsidized farms have received 75 percent of all subsidy payments."These farm payments are not improper or illegal, but they do create a conflict of interest for these members of Congress," said Craig Cox, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group. "Some of them are major players in the 2012 farm bill debate and all of these lawmakers will be forced to cast a vote on the final bill."

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