City Dwellers Got $394 Million in Farm Subsidies, Watchdog Group Says

An estimated 90,000 people living in 350 cities and towns across the country got nearly $400 million in taxpayer-funded crop subsidies last year, says a top environmental watchdog group.

The data was revealed by the Environmental Working Group in conjunction with a Senate Agricultural committee review of farm spending, in light of the deficit reduction and debt ceiling fights in Washington, D.C. Fights over cuts to ethanol subsidies in particular have broken out on Capitol Hill.

The group culled the estimates out of its farm subsidy database, which it says in a statement relies on millions of new government records tracking an estimated $222.8 billion in farm subsidies that the federal government has released from 1995 to 2010.

Farm subsidies were launched after the Great Depression to help struggling small farmers plant corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and wheat. The payments were meant for farmers who actually work the land, not absentee land owners and investors, the group says.

It also points to the actively engaged rule adopted in a 2008 bill, that was designed to ensure that federal payments go only to those who are truly working the land, the group says in the statement.

But the group says an estimated $394 million in farm subsidies have been given to absentee land owners and investors living in every major American city."

It adds that "in 2010, 7,767 residents of just five Texas cities Lubbock, Amarillo, Austin, San Angelo and Corpus Christi collected $61,748,945 in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Residents of Lubbock booked $24,839,154 in payments, putting it at the top of cities with 100,000+ populations that are home to farm subsidy recipients, the watchdog group said in a statement.

The group added: In Spokane, Wash., 1,224 residents cashed $10,580,181 in farm subsidy checks. In New York City, 290 farm subsidy recipients pulled in a total of $800,887, while 203 residents of Miami got $2,472,071. In San Francisco, 179 residents split $1,094,172, while 1,235 residents of Memphis got $4,009,874 and 1,146 people in Denver received $3,394,550. In Arizona, 1,205 residents of Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale divvied up $8,173,269 in payments.

We are sending handouts to Wall Street investors and absentee landlords instead of working toward creating a safety net for working farm and ranch families, said EWG Senior Vice-President Craig Cox in a statement. Its simply unjustifiable. Cox manages EWGs agriculture programs from the organizations Ames, Iowa, office.

The Dept. of Agricultures acting undersecretary, Michael Scuse, has reportedly said that people living in urban areas are entitled to crop subsidies if they are active in agriculture. People are eligible for payments if they provide land, equipment or capital, or labor and management.