Expensive Welfare Handouts to Ranch Corporations
In 1990s, Federal Agency Handed Out $237 Million to Ranch Agribusinesses
Still more welfare payments going to fatcat corporations out West. An organization called Forest Guardians made this new report.
SANTA FE - The Farm Services Agency, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave out nearly $237 million in federal aid to cattle ranchers across the nation during the 1990's including nearly $40 million in 1999, according to information obtained by Forest Guardians. The information shows that while many federal conservation programs remain strapped for cash, the government is willing to hand out millions of dollars in subsidies to select interest groups.
The payments are a part of the Livestock Assistance Program (LAP), which the Farm Services Agency administers. In order to receive financial assistance under the LAP, an applicant must show that he or she has suffered grazing losses due to natural disaster, primarily drought, during the preceding calendar year. Across the nation, nearly 9,000 livestock operators were each recipients of up to $4 million in 1999. In numerous instances, these recipients also grazed livestock on public lands, where they benefit from various other anti-market federal subsidies.
The information about the LAP comes in the wake of recent proclamations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that there are insufficient funds available to allow for further designation of critical habitat for endangered species, or for listing of as yet unlisted, but critically imperiled species. Dozens of imperiled species that warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act are unprotected due to a lack of funds.
"The federal government says that there's not enough money to give meaningful protection to endangered species, yet provides millions of dollars in federal handouts to private ranchers," said Kirsten Stade, head of Forest Guardians' welfare ranching initiative. "Clearly, the government is more concerned with pandering to special interests than with protecting our natural resources," added Stade.
Forest Guardians obtained through the Freedom of Information Act the Farm Services Agency database, which showed that over the past decade, each year an average of $24 million has been distributed to beneficiaries of the Livestock Assistance program nationwide, mostly in western states. In 1999, nearly $40 million was distributed to over 9,000 recipients in 26 states across the nation, the majority of them in the west.
"This is welfare ranching at its finest, and provides further evidence of how unsustainable livestock production really is in the arid West." said Stade. "The government is paying ranchers to continue a practice that would otherwise be as economically unfeasible as it is ecologically devastating, while the very conservation efforts that are made necessary by the continued grazing of cattle on fragile lands are neglected due to lack of funds." Ranch corporations and government have formed an anti-free-market coalition.
The ten largest recipients of the LAP over the past decade nationwide are Running N Cattle Co. of New Mexico, which received a total of $442, 000, Kingsolving & Kingsolving of New Mexico, which received $403,000, I & M Sheep Co. of California, $346,000, E Ray Okelberry of Utah, $344,000, Sims Livestock of Nevada, $341,000, Hawks & Son of Idaho, $338,000, Twisselman Grain & Cattle of California, $316,000, Eureka Livestock Of Nevada, $312,000, Brough Partnership of Nevada, $306,000, and Vicente Ranch Inc of New Mexico, $296,000.
The Farm Services Agency has been in existence since the 1930s, and has administered the Livestock Assistance Program in some form since the agency's inception. More information about the LAP around the U.S. is available on the Forest Guardians web site at http://www.fguardians.org/fsa-lap.html
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