Lincoln Pushes for Farm Aid

Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln reported earlier this week that she had secured assurances from the Obama administration that the USDA would fund a $1.5 billion aid package for farmers who lost crops in 2009. Qualifying farmers would receive payments equal to 90 percent of their direct payments in 2009, thus meaning that many farmers could see their subsidies double. Ratio Farms in Arkansas, one of the largest recipients of aid, could receive over $700,000 in aid, on top of over $800,000 in subsidies last year.

Criticism for this plan are quickly mounting and many have argued that Lincoln’s plan disproportionately benefits large-scale farms while ignoring equally hard hit smaller farms. Ken Cook, the head of The Environmental Working Group, stated that, “There’s the general question of whether we should be subsidizing these big operations year in and year out.” In addition, the same organization argued that, “Small farmers who lost their entire crop are likely to get less help than big farmers who still brought in 95 percent of their crops.”

Lincoln’s plan has also been criticized for disproportionately sending aid to Arkansas. The EWP has estimated that over $200 million could go to Arkansas farmers, with 270 farms receiving over $100,000. Lincoln’s plan has also received criticism from black lawmakers, who have been seeking $1.2 billion in funding to pay for a promised aid package to black farmers from the USDA. Lincoln defended her plan, stating, “Payment follows production, and if we’re going to feed the 6.6 billion people on the face of this earth, I think we need everybody that farms out there. … We’re feeding and clothing the world and it’s important that we make sure we keep our domestic producers competitive.”

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