Welfare Queen

Farm subsidies for the filthy rich.


On March 23 The Guardian published what had until then been a government secret: which Brits rake in the biggest subsidies from the profligate European Union. Near the top of the list was the queen herself, whose farm in Norfolk received ?769,000 (approximately $1.3 million) in 2003?04.

"The Queen is a landowner and a farmer," a royal spokesman told the paper. "She receives subsidy, just as any other farmer would do."

In the United States, it doesn't take a lengthy Freedom of Information Act request to turn up farm subsidy data. You just visit the Environmental Working Group's online database at ewg.org:16080/farm, where you can search largesse by state, county, city, and name.

What can you find there? That a certain R.E. Turner, known to the rest of the world as Ted, received $491,179 in subsidies from 1995 to 2003, broken down into $352,263 for conservation and $138,916 for commodities (wheat, barley, oats), mostly on his huge ranch in Bozeman, Montana. What's more, Turner Enterprises received an additional $206,948 in commodity subsidies for three other properties in the state, bringing the CNN founder's take from Uncle Sam to a minimum of $698,127.

More intriguing are the namesakes–and likely family members–of singer John Mellencamp, who co-founded the annual Farm Aid benefit concert 20 years ago because (as he recently told The Washington Post) the government was "running the small family farm…out of business." There are 34 Mellencamps in the Environmental Working Group's database, 12 of whom come from a single 20,000-resident town, Seymour, Indiana, which happens to be John Mellencamp's birthplace.

From 1995 to 2003, Seymour's Mellencamps received a whopping $1,297,247 in subsidies, ranging from the Mellencamp Farm Inc.'s $383,673, to George Mellencamp's $249,590, all the way down to Andrew Mellencamp's paltry $420. As with the rest of Indiana's farmers, the bulk of the Mellencamps' handouts came from growing corn.

No word yet if rock millionaire Mellencamp is planning Blue State Aid, to help the beleaguered urban taxpayers keeping his Seymour relatives high on the government hog.