Both political parties and most Americans look upon the toiling farmer as a great symbol of American resilience and hard work, someone surely deserving of national support. The great myth, however, comes in thinking that most of the Department of Agriculture’s funding goes to small farmers who, without Washington’s support, would lose their livelihoods.

On the contrary, the vast majority goes to the largest farms, and often for dubious purposes. Beginning in the Great Depression, the U.S. government even began paying farmers not to grow food, just to keep prices up. Today, most farms don’t receive these handouts, with a grossly disproportionate amount of subsidies going to the top one percent of corporate farms.

Some research has indicated that government provide over $150 billion in farm subsidies every year, with the agricultural sector getting more of its money from subsidies than from customers. Twenty billion could be saved from the federal government simply by ending direct subsidies such as the “farm income stabilization” program.

For the purposes of the MyGovCost Calculator, this category represents the government’s expenditures managed by the Department of Agriculture. It includes farm income stabilization (subsidy) programs as well as agricultural research and services.

Learn more about Agriculture Program problems and solutions:

“U.S. Agricultural Programs: Who Pays?”
Ernest C. Pasour Jr.; November 1, 2008

The Schizophrenia of U.S. Farm Policy
Ernest C. Pasour Jr. and Randal R. Rucker (Investor’s Business Daily) April 22, 2008

“It’s Time to End Farm Subsidies”
Benjamin Powell (Investor’s Business Daily) March 28, 2005

“The Enduring Political Illusion of Farm Subsidies”
Nicolas Heidorn (San Francisco Chronicle) August 18, 2004

Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture
Ernest C. Pasour Jr., Randal R. Rucker (book summary)

See Also:

Independent Institute Archive on Agriculture