50 billionaires receive unnecessary farm subsidies

These billionaires also receive large annual crop insurance payments subsidized by taxpayers.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 8, 2013 10:19AM

Farmhouse © Mark Karrass/CorbisForbesBy Beth Hoffman


Using the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the U.S., the Environmental Working Group has announced that 50 billionaires also received $11.3 million in farm subsidies since 1995.


And while a billionaire making on average a little more than $13,000 over 17 years might not sound like news, most of the billionaires making the list do not farm professionally, nor do they need the government assistance they receive. Yet "food stamp" benefits serving 47 million people were cut by $5 billion last Friday and Congress is debating billions of dollars in further cuts.


To add insult to injury, these billionaires also receive large annual crop insurance payments subsidized by taxpayers, but current law does not allow the USDA to disclose the identity of crop insurance policyholders. Over the same 17 year period, $44 billion in federal insurance subsidies were paid out to those growing corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and sorghum.


A "means test" used to weed out those farmers who make over $500,000 a year in off-farm income is currently in place for some crop subsidies. But no such test exists for those collecting insurance for crops.

According to the report, those who made the list of crop subsidized billionaires include:


  • Paul Allen (Net worth: $15.8 billion) 
    Co-founder of Microsoft (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money)
  • Charles Ergen (Net worth: $12.5 billion) 
    Co-founder of DISH Network
  • S. Truett Cathy (Net worth: $6 billion) 
    Founder of Chick-fil-A
  • Leslie Wexner (Net worth: $5.7 billion) 
    CEO of L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret
  • David Rockefeller, Sr. (Net worth: $2.8 billion) 
    Former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank
  • Penny Pritzker (Net worth: $2.2 billion) 
    U.S. Secretary of Commerce

An earlier analysis of USDA crop insurance records found that in 2011 alone, more than two dozen farms received insurance payments of more than $1 million. While tax payers subsidized insurance to the tune of $1.5 billion in 2002, that number had swelled to $7.4 billion in 2011.


More from Forbes

Nov 8, 2013 11:26AM
i love these comments, blame it on democrats. why don't you publish how much con agra, archer Daniel midland and Monsanto get in corporate welfare from this same source. trust me it makes this 11 million  seem like chump change. michelle bachman isn't on the list because she isn't a billionaire even though she received 250,000. point out the splinter in some one else's eye but ignore the beam in your own. these political whores on the right will sell out to any corporation with a lobbyist and money but to hell with the poor. couldn't wait to cut w.i.c., women,infants and children but lets keep subsidizing exxon mobil and the other oil companies several billion a  year.  what a bunch of hypocrites
Nov 8, 2013 11:30AM
In every way imaginable, the wealthy take money from everyone else because they can, as the game has been structured by our compromised gov't so they can do so, and at will. Subsidies of major corporations may have been appropriate early in their development, but now that they make untold billions in profits that subsidy continuation is despicable, but the rich control our lawmakers now and the rest of us will not change that short of revolution.  Remember, many societies also came to this exact same point and were overthrown for it. It could happen here.
Nov 8, 2013 12:06PM
Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher from Tennessee has received more than $3 million in farm subsidies but he voted against poor women and children receiving $100-$200 per month in food subsidies.  It is the absolute worst form of hypocrisy.
Nov 8, 2013 12:29PM

Blame the Dems, blame the GOP.  It is irrelevant who you blame, the rich will keep getting richer while the rest of us fight like dogs over the scraps they through to us.  Working class, middle class and upper middle class are separated by only a few thousand dollars, chump change to the 1%.  Yet we continue to divide ourselves by race, ethnicity, age, etc., etc.  Get a clue and stop hating each other and get together to change how the government is run. 


Take action in any positive way you can.  First get accurate information and participate by signing petitions, contribute to  political awareness organizations, make your voice heard for change.  This is certainly better than posting insults to other readers on this site. 


Hate and gloom only sickens you and those around you.  I'm on my way to a community meeting now, I have no more time for whining.



Nov 8, 2013 12:16PM
How the hell does a billionaire, who doesn't farm professionally, get farm subsidies? Just another example of the rich in this country taking advantage of the average tax payer for their own selfish greed. It's time for the American people to put a stop to this. The fat cats in Washington aren't doing anything except lining their own pockets. The American people need to stand together and stop them from making the laws and breaking the laws that line these ****s pockets.
Nov 8, 2013 12:52PM
U.S. Secretary of Commerce is worth 2.2 Billion???
That, by itself seems to indicate a conflict of interest, I mean how does someone with that much money have any connection to the rest of the working class world...don't care Dem or Rep...it just seems like a classic "fox guarding the henhouse" scenario.
Nov 8, 2013 12:25PM
There should not be any crop subsidies for anyone regardless of their assets. Farm commodity prices should float to reflect the true costs of production in a market economy.
Nov 8, 2013 12:09PM

It's obviously more important to give billionaires millions of dollars in farm subsidies by cutting food stamps for the most vulnerable such as the disabled, starving children and low income families.

This country is just becoming like a third world country more and more so.

Nov 8, 2013 12:43PM

The hypocrisy is with all of you who blame the Democrats or Republicans as the problem. The problem is the Republicans AND the Democrats who are there because of an ignorant apathetic electorate.

The entire group in Washington are there for their individual gain. Every bipartisan fight is an opportunity for them to yell for more campaign funds and PAC funds to further their agendas. Until THE PEOPLE band together and quit pointing blame at the other citizens expect more of the same.

It is one big extortion game!

Nov 8, 2013 11:57AM

What a way to run a business. Corporate welfare at its best

Nov 8, 2013 12:36PM

Sounds like racketeering in legal terms to me

Nov 8, 2013 1:26PM
Corporations never should have been given rights as individuals, that act has given lobbies power beyond imagining and we have seen stories like this time and time since. 
Our political leaders need to start wearing jackets and driving cars with sponsor logo's on them so we know where their interests really are...at least then we can vote with some confidence of how they are going to use the voting power we gave them.

Nov 8, 2013 11:55AM
There is current crop legislation going through the house that was already passed by the senate (59-33, with 40 of those 59 democrats).  Still going through House, but its the GOP not democrats holding it up.  Plus, this legislation has been attempted before but the farming lobbies and crop ins industry made sure they were defeated through its republicans in the house.  So, please don't blame democrats on this one.  

Farming lobby doesn't want this because having no limit subsidies allows for cheaper premiums for everyone (if limited, some wealthy farmers won't buy the insurance, which means cost sharing dictates premiums rise for other farmers).   And what party do most of these farmer's belong.  Betting it isn't democrat.  Agribusiness also fights this legislation, clearly, and they primarily fund and support republican legislators.

Farmer's are one of the, if not the most, subsidized groups in the country.  Through crop insurance subsidies, numerous tax breaks and benefits, loan subsidies, ethanol subsidies, fuel tax credits, and trade protections, most of which ignore income levels, they are heavily funded by taxpayers.  At least welfare related programs have some sort of threshold and need based qualification standards, even if it is arguably flawed and subject to loopholes.  
Nov 8, 2013 1:20PM
Maybe getting rid of ALL farm subsidies would be a good idea?
Nov 8, 2013 12:08PM
Our system is stacked in favor of the 1% and GOP makes sure it stays that way.
Vote GOP/TP OUT of our Congress!

Nov 8, 2013 11:52AM

Perhaps someone should write a book...Serving The Rich:  A Cook Book.

Seems the wealthy are well fed, why not take advantage of that?

Nov 8, 2013 12:18PM
We can't afford Social Security and food stamps but pay for Robber Barons for nothing.  Go Paul Ryan, no new taxes?  Means TEST Farms
Nov 8, 2013 12:42PM
The ol' scumbag cons are at it again!!
Nov 8, 2013 12:26PM
Nov 8, 2013 11:49AM
The infinitely small "mammals" of change scurry around under the feet of the wealthy dinosaurs of the current age. If they can wait it out - and nature has equipped them to do so - change will come. And all that will be left of the current rulers of the world will be clusters of their bones, littering the landscape like so many Henry Moore sculptures.
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