Reports Show Most COVID-19 Farm Relief Funding Goes to the Largest Farms

An analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) records, performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that the top one percent of farms have received the most money from government funding programs, receiving 22 percent of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funds and 16 percent of funds from the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which was designed to offset damage to farm income due to trade regulations with China. The lowest 80 percent of farms, however, received 23 percent of the funds from both programs.

Anne Schechinger, who compiled the EWG analysis, reported that the company only received records for the first $5 billion dollars given in CFAP payments through June 30. Since then, more payments have gone out and the USDA announced CFAP 2, which is a continuation of the program and adds an additional $14 billion to the payments. The report said that the top one percent of farms received an average of $352,432, however, the average for the smallest 80 percent was $4,677.

The top one percent of farms under the MFP received an average of $524,689, and the analysis reported that the top 10 percent of farms received half of the payments. The smallest 80 percent of farms received on average $9,109. Successful Farming reported that direct farm payments are forecasted to reach a “record high of at least $32 billion” in 2020.

The report said, “unlike other stringently controlled welfare programs, like food stamps, farm subsidies place few requirements on people who receive them, and few limits on payments. Many recipients never have to set foot on the farm or ride in a tractor to get paid. That’s why EWG has found thousands of people who live in cities, and some who live on golf courses, who have received MFP payments.” [Note: I think the last sentence is important…but maybe deleting it would make it less political, I do include the next paragraph to show a similar government source] EWG said the USDA “must make changes” to get the money to struggling farms and farmers, who are doing the work.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report on 2019 farm payments found similar information in its analysis for 8 of 25 farms which received the largest payments in the year. They found that although recipients needed to be active in management roles to qualify, workers could fill that role by attending a few conferences.