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Top 1 percent of Texas commodity farmers get quarter of $1.6 billion in subsidies

Last year in Nueces County, sorghum farmers raked in $10.9 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Corn farmers in Castro County took $12.6 million. In Deaf Smith County, the kingpins of cotton were paid $32.5 million, according to new farm subsidy data released last week. But as the state’s biggest farms drew lucrative paydays, the pocketbooks of small family farmers got thinner. Now, critics of federal farm subsidy programs are calling for reform of a system they say overwhelmingly favors big agribusiness.   The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers a long list of subsidy programs for farmers, and though the payment schemes are complex, they generally involve giving farmers taxpayer money to compensate for low market prices and weather-related crop damage. In 2016, Texas farmers received $1.59 billion in subsidies, more than any other state, and most of that went to growers of a handful of commodity crops — cotton, wheat, corn and sorghum. Eighty-one percent of Texas farmers collected no subsides at all.  Farmers of virtually every other crop — from spinach growers in the Rio Grande Valley to peach specialists at the Texas-Oklahoma line — are excluded from the USDA’s most generous safety net. And even within the coterie of farmers who receive subsidies, there’s a huge disconnect between the haves and the have-nots: The top 1 percent of subsidy recipients get 26 percent of all payments, about $1.7 million per recipient.

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Texas Observer