Ag Policy Blog

EWG Examines Trade Aid Payments to 'City Slickers'

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Environmental Working Group issued a report Monday meant to encourage farm-bill negotiators to stick with tighter farm-program payment standards in the Senate version of the farm bill rather than the House bill.

EWG, looking at a partial list of farmers who had received trade-aid payments through the end of October, found that 1,142 people in the country's 50 largest cities had received Market Facilitation Program payments through the end of October, as EWG labeled those folks as "city slickers."

EWG's numbers account for about 87,700 recipients of trade-aid payments for a total of $356 million.

According to USDA on Monday, Market Facilitation Program payments have now topped $1.128 billion with the top five commodities being soybeans, corn, wheat, dairy and hogs. The top five states for recipients are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota.

EWG reports 85 farms had received more than the $125,000 individual payment cap. The farms at the top of the list, including one in Louisiana that had received $439,120, each had multiple owners listed who would be eligible for payments and potentially their spouses would be eligible as well. DTN tried to seek comment from the Louisiana farm operation after it was listed on EWG's press release and talked about in a press call, but DTN could not reach any of the farm operators for comment.

While the single-largest recipient farm was from Louisiana, 29 of the 50 largest recipient farms for MFP payments -- each collecting between $155,000 to $368,643 -- were from the state of Mississippi, according to EWG's data through the end of October.

Of the 1,142 people receiving payments who lived in major cities, EWG noted the average payment those people received was $880.

Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for EWG, said Monday the volume of payments and size reflect the need for farm-bill negotiators to keep Senate provisions on "actively engaged" requirements, income caps and payment caps for the farm bill rather than the House version that has more loose requirements for actively engaged rules and broadens the definition of family members who would be eligible for program payments.

The Senate bill maintains the commodity payment cap at $12,5000 per farmer ($250,000 with spouse) while the Senate bill lowers income levels for farmers to collect commodity or conservation payments from $900,000 adjusted gross income to $700,000 AGI. The Senate bill also caps the number of farm managers -- those people not providing any active labor on the farm -- to one person, compared to three persons allowed under the law now.

USDA expects to pay out $4.7 billion in the full first tranche of payments under the Market Facilitation Program and follow up with a second announcement of payments in early December.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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