When it Comes to Farm Subsidies, Obama's USDA Is Less Transparent Than Bush's
Cross-posted from Food Politics. It’s hard for mere mortals to track the extent of food lobbying and its effects on, for example, farm subsidies. Thanks to the Yale Rudd Center for setting up a lobbying data base where you can track who spends money on what. It is searchable by year, issue, and sponsor. And thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for setting up a data base for tracking farm subsidies. This, as I mentioned in an earlier post, linked subsidies to specific farms in specific locations. Uh oh. EWG can’t do that any more. According to EWG:
Our 2007 database used previously unavailable records to uncover nearly 500,000 individuals who had never been identified as farm subsidy recipients. Many had been shielded by their involvement in byzantine mazes of co-ops and corporate entity shell games. For example, the database revealed that Florida real estate developer Maurice Wilder, reportedly worth $500 million, was pulling in almost $1 million a year in farm subsidies for corn farms he owns in several states. Unfortunately for our 2010 update, the data that provided such a revelatory account of just who receives the billions paid out in the maze of federal farm subsidy programs is no longer available to us.Why not?
That’s because Congress changed the wording of the 1614 provision in the 2008 farm bill from USDA “shall” release such data to USDA “may” release such data. USDA has since decided not to release the information. According to USDA officials, the database can cost as much as $6.7 million to produce, and Congress did not appropriate money to compile the database.This, says EWG, makes the Obama administration less forthcoming than the Bush administration. Amazing, the effects of one word change on EWG’s – and our – ability to see why farm subsidies are so corrupt.