Identifying some individuals who receive generous federal crop subsidies without going anywhere near a farm has gotten trickier. The Department of Agriculture, which paid $15.4 billion in 2009 subsidies, is no longer centralizing the data that made it easier to pinpoint individuals who receive farm payments through their affiliation in farming corporations, co-ops and other types of business partnerships.
"Recipients can hide behind 'paper farms' and reap thousands of dollars in a taxpayers program without being accountable for it," said Don Carr, a spokesman for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). [...]
Why did the USDA discontinue the [...] database? A provision in Congress' 2008 farm law no longer requires the department to release this type of information. The new language says that the USDA "may" release the data instead of the USDA "shall" release it.
"The USDA said they don't have the money to do it, so they’re not going to do it," Carr said.
According to the USDA, to update and program the [...] database would cost an estimated $6.7 million, which was not appropriated in the 2008 farm law.
"Transparency is a priority for this administration and USDA, and information on farm payment recipients will be made available upon request on a program by program basis," said Justin DeJong, a USDA spokesman.
Reason on the Obama administration's transparency record here. The best transparency of all would be to eliminate "morally depraved" ag subsidies altogether, thereby allowing poor people to get less poor, and rich countries to spend their money on things more efficient and rewarding than tariffs, corporate welfare, federal bureaucracy, and lobbyists.
Link via Timothy Carney's nourishment-rich Twitter feed. Reason had some past fun with what the then-functional database turned up for the families of John Cougar Mellencamp and Michele Bachmann (Turner Overdrive). Reason.tv on farm subsidies below: