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Pigging Out in Corporate America:
The Million $ Club

by Martha Stevens,
Hatfield, Missouri

Martha Stevens is livestock farmer who lives and farms near Hatfield, Missouri. This article is part of an ongoing series by Martha Stevens - Straight Talk - commenting on the life and politics of farming in Missouri and the U.S. as a whole.

Continuing the saga of the taxpayer cookie jar: In addition to those already reported, I found twenty companies that received in excess of a million dollars each last year. Most of the names were unfamiliar and had not been found on prior information sheets of this type, leading me to suspect that they most likely are actually owned by some of the biggest names on Wall Street and beyond who prefer to keep their own corporate names off the ìwelfare roll!î Amounts varied from a whopping $22,682,797 for Hoogwegt U.S. Inc and $18,676,985 to M.E. Franks, to a lowly $1,205,000 for Soufflet USA. Receipts for the twenty totaled well over $106,000,000!

Also receiving sizable "contributions" were such well-known names as Campbell Soup, Cargill, ConAgra, DeCoster Egg Farms (don't you just love the way these corporations like to call their company a "farm?"), Dreyer's Ice Cream, General Mills, Excel, Farmland, H.J. Heinz Co, Hershey, M&M/Mars Candy Co, Ocean Spray, Ore-Ida, Pepperidge Farm (there's that name again!), Purdue, Russell Stover, Safeway, Schwan's, Shurfine, Smucker's, SunMaid, Sunsweet, Sunkist, Tootsie Roll, Tyson Tropicana, and Welch's. Any of those sound like they need a handout from the taxpayer cookie jar?

But even more disturbing to me about the entire program is the vast amount of $$$ being given to companies that I know many tax-payers would not approve. I, personally, am offended by the millions going to firms like Earnest and Julio Gallo, Seagrams, Jim Beam, and various wineries and vineyards. And pet food companies. I fail to see a need to subsidize makers of pet food. I can almost accept programs for exporters of food products, but liquor, candy and pet food are hardly necessities of life!

Corporate Welfare will cost taxpayers over $338 billion over the next five years. And it is all charged up to the USDA! No wonder our urban cousins think farmers are getting rich at their expense! Now compare the figures I received from the Harrison County FSA office concerning CRP: CRP payments to farmers for the entire U.S. totaled $28 to $30 billion last year! But Corporate Welfare is projected at more than 10 times that amount over a five-year period or more than double the CRP payments. $67.6 billion per year. Something is very wrong here. Yet our own Missouri Senator, who should know better, recently stated that farmers shouldn't receive a government check, but rather they should be "counseled to save." Save what??? When the price for virtually every farm commodity is below public servant who is receiving, and has always received, a government check, chide the farmer for the paltry amount he receives, insinuating his problems lie with an inability to "save." Farmers are probably better managers of their business affairs than most-due to necessity! When the crop, be it grain or animal, comes in, he doesn't have the option of increasing his price to accommodate his cost of production. Instead, he is left to just hope that those who do have that option will see fit to compensate him for his labors.

When was the last time you heard anyone use the term "parity" as it pertains to farm products? Parity is nothing more than a fair price, given cost of productions. Farmers haven't received that fair price in the past forty years -- at least. What other enterprise could stay in business, much less prosper or save, with such disparity for their product? I am appalled at a statement I read in a farm magazine recently from an economist who had submitted his ideas on "How to Talk with your Banker." He suggested that the best way to obtain loans for your farming operation was to prove to the bank that you would be able to repay your loan due to off-farm income. Give me a break! It is such a privilege to be out here breaking your back to feed the world that farmers should not expect to be paid a living wage, but rather should take an off-farm job to subsidize the farm???

Today's Quote: "The Hoover tractor won't have a seat or steering wheel because most farmers will have lost their backsides and won't have any way to turn anyhow."--Will Rogers

Published in In Motion Magazine - December 19, 1998

Also read other essays by Martha Stevens