A new web site is stirring up great controversy in the US by revealing the amount of government subsidies received by every US farmer between 1996 and 2000.
“The website is a timely reminder to US taxpayers of the sort of money farmers in that country are already receiving from the government at a time when Congress is considering a massive increase in farm spending,” AWB Limited Chairman, Mr Trevor Flügge said.
“What it shows most starkly is that large wealthy farmers are the primary beneficiaries of US farm policy while the smaller farmers tend to lose out.”
As the web site reveals, while some major agribusinesses received over one million dollars US a year in government subsidies, the smaller farmer has suffered from the low commodity prices and high land values that are a result of the government’s policy.
The data, which accounts for all payments that were made under the US Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act between 1996 and 2000, has been collated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and can be viewed on its web site www.ewg.org/farm.
Since posting the information on its the web site the EWG has received more than 14 million hits and caused great debate in the US with many questioning the current direction of US farm policy.
One Illinios farmer who, according to the web site, received US$130,000 over the five years in government subsidies has been quoted by the New York Times as saying: “It is a wake-up call, making us look like we’re not all that different from the welfare mothers in Chicago”.
“The debate that has been sparked by this web site is an absolutely necessary one considering that Congress is currently considering a new Farm Bill that will dole out a massive US$170 billion over ten years in subsidies to the US agricultural sector, the bulk of which will go to the country’s richest farmers and corporations,” Mr Flügge said.
“The problem is that domestic farm policy in the US also has a major impact upon growers in Australia and around the world and I will be discussing this issue with members of Congress and the Bush Administration when I visit Washington in the coming weeks.”