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Unlimited Subsidies for Corn, None for Health Care Coverage

Unlimited Subsidies for Corn, None for Health Care Coverage

Friday, September 1, 2017

When it comes to farm subsidies, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., says his farmers should “receive the long-term certainty they deserve.” That’s why Meadows voted to increase farm subsidies in the 2014 Farm Bill, including adding new crop insurance subsidies. Recently, after receiving an award from the American Farm Bureau Federation, Meadows said farmers were the “backbone” of his community.

But when it comes to health insurance, Meadows is staunchly opposed to subsidies for North Carolina’s poor families. Meadows is best known as the head of the House of Representatives’ Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative legislators who have fought to slash subsidies for poor Americans seeking to buy health insurance.

And are farmers actually the backbone of the 11th Congressional District? Let’s look at the data.

About 5,385 people have jobs in agriculture in Meadows’ district, according to the Census Bureau, and there are about 1,000 farms. Those farms receive about $6 million in annual federal payments, including farm subsidies.  

Those jobs represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 318,000 jobs in the 11th District, most of which are tied to manufacturing, education, health care and retail sales. Now compare that to the 45,000 people in Meadows’ district who were able to get health care through the Affordable Care Act – thanks primarily to new health insurance subsidies he has sought to end.

Meadows is not the first legislator to confuse the rural economy with the agricultural economy. As we’ve previously noted, only 6 percent of rural jobs are in farming. Even in congressional districts with many more farms – like the 19th District of Texas, which has 11,000 farms – less than 8 percent of the jobs are in agriculture. 

Nor is Meadows the first member of Congress to incorrectly assume that all of his district’s farmers receive subsidies. In fact, two-thirds of farmers nationwide are ineligible for farm subsidies. In Meadows’ district, more farmers produce Christmas trees – which are not subsidized – than corn. Most of the farmers in the district grow fruits and vegetables, or raise livestock.

Earlier this year, during debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Meadows said: “So you can be a millionaire” and receive health insurance tax credits? “I’ve got a problem with that.”

OK, Congressman: What about millionaires and billionaires receiving unlimited farm subsidies?

Most federal farm subsidies flow to the largest and most successful farmers – even though the nation’s 60,000 large and very large commercial farmers have median household incomes of $340,000 and $1.1 million, respectively. Two-thirds of all farmers receive nothing, and among subsidized farmers, the bottom 80 percent receive about $10,000 a year. But some large farmers annually receive more than $1 million in subsidies.

Does Mark Meadows have a problem with that?

 

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