U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the former chairwoman of the subcommittee responsible for funding the Agriculture Department, wrote 50 billionaires Tuesday and asked them to provide more information about the subsidies they receive under the farm bill.
DeLauro pointed to research done by the Environmental Working Group, which found 50 leaders of some of the most successful companies, such as Microsoft, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, and Charles Schwab Corp., received $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012. The net worth of the individuals receiving the subsidies was estimated by the environmental group at $316 billion.
Many of these same billionaires also may have received crop insurance subsidies, but taxpayers have no way of knowing because current law prohibits the disclosure of the identities of crop insurance policyholders.
In her letter, DeLauro asked the recipients to disclose whether they receive crop insurance subsidies as well.
“Since the crop insurance payments are not public, can you confirm what you have received in crop insurance subsidies and over what period?” DeLauro asked.
She pointed out that the Republican majority in the House chose to cut about $40 billion from the food stamp program, which is part of the farm bill, while preserving farm subsidies via crop insurance.
“We cannot look at food stamps alone,” DeLauro said in a statement accompanying the letter. “We must examine the Farm Bill in its entirety.”
Republicans in the House are focused on cutting money from the food stamp program, while some Democrats are looking elsewhere in the bill for savings.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimates these cuts to the food stamp program would result in 3.8 million poor people being denied benefits in 2014, and an average of almost 3 million low-income Americans losing benefits annually over the next decade,” DeLauro wrote to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft whose Kona Residence Trust received $14,429 in barley subsidies from 1996 to 2006.
DeLauro wrote similar letters to the rest of the 49 billionaire group.
In 2012, the federal government provided about $697 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Connecticut to feed an average of 403,466 individuals per month. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on Nov. 1 the state received a $44 million cut in funding to the program when the temporary expansion under the stimulus ended.
“This cut of $5 billion in 2014, and $11 billion over the next three years, will cut benefits for a family of three by an average of $29, or 16 meals, each month,” Delauro wrote referring to the Nov. 1 reduction.
Both chambers of Congress have passed versions of the farm bill and are working to resolve the differences between them.
Negotiators in both the House and the Senate are hoping to reach a compromise before Thanksgiving, according to news reports. However, it’s unlikely they will restore all the cuts the House made to the food stamp program.
Click here to read the Mother Jones article on the strategy Democrats may use to block a vote on food stamp cuts by killing the farm bill.