Large Connected Farms Double Up On Bailouts

Written by SK Ashby

As you may recall, the largest and most well-connected farms with the best lawyers and accountants were able to collect significantly more bailout money from the Trump regime than their smaller counterparts did in recent years and that evidently also applies to our various pandemic programs.

While other types of businesses have collected bailout money from the same pool, a bailout specifically for the agricultural industry was included in the large stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.

Now, we all have to eat, of course, so maybe it's fair or at least justifiable that farms got their own bailout, but receiving their own bailout does not mean they did not also take advantage of the programs for other businesses.

According to investigative journalists at The Counter -- a non-profit outlet that focuses on the nation's food supply -- large farms secured multiple payments from the special farm bailout but they also secured multiple payments from the Paycheck Protect Program totaling far more than they're suppose to.

Unlike the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and other relief measures, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) money is disbursed with few strings attached. “Congress did not put a lot of guardrails on that money. They said you have to pay these people. And here’s a big pile of money to go do it,” says Eric Deeble, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Income limits for individuals are capped at $900,000, but the cap disappears if most of that income comes from farming. The payments themselves are capped at $250,000 per individual, or $750,000 for farms owned by corporations.

An analysis by The Counter of payments made from late May to late June by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency—the office that administers the direct payment program—found that at least five farms collected single payments of significantly more than $750,000. The highest payment—for $1.4 million—went to Titan Swine, which also received two additional CFAP checks totaling an additional $1.1 million on the same day.

The Counter also found 13 instances in which multiple entities registered to the same business address received payments totaling more than $1 million, indicating that farms who share stakeholders or fall under the same umbrella organization may be receiving multiple payments. Many were also receiving loans from the Payroll Protection Program, meaning they were able to take advantage of multiple federal income-support programs. In one example, five dairies registered to the same P.O. box in a rural Georgia town received direct payments totaling $1.57 million from CFAP, as well as three Payroll Protection Program loans. Similarly, four dairies registered to the business address of Hollandia Farms in Hanford, California, received a total of $1.57 million over a nine-day period. The Hanford address was also linked to six PPP loans, totaling between $1.5-$4.5 million, all from the same bank and disbursed over a four-day stretch in April.

In other words, parent companies with multiple brands based in the exact same location received multiple bailout checks and multiple Paycheck Protection checks at the same time that probably covered the same employees several times over.

I think we can infer that this is how at least some PPP applicants claimed they would save more jobs than they actually have. What they did was count the same employees multiple times because they work in a facility that supplies multiple brands.

When I was reading this I couldn't help but ponder my own struggle with the cost of food while these businesses receive millions in bailout money that was supposed to be capped at a significantly lower level. And have these various bailouts made food any cheaper? No.

At least some critical farmers with legitimate needs have probably been helped by our various bailouts, but I largely regard this at a political payout program.

Agricultural subsidies shape our entire food system and fuel critical supplies for school systems and other public institutions, and that's fine, but the special bailouts that Trump created because his trade war wrecked the industry have to end along with his trade war.

If we want to funnel additional money into the agricultural industry, it should come in the form of higher funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Create demand where there is none by giving people more money to spend on food. That's why the food stamp program was created to begin with: to fight hunger and stimulate business at the same time; kill two birds with one stone.