WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) — Fifty billionaires on the Forbes list of the U.S. richest have received $11.3 million in federal farm subsidies, the Environmental Working Group said Thursday.
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, Charles Schwab, head of the brokerage that bears his name, and U.S. Secretary of State Penny Pritzker were among those who received subsidies between 1995 and 2012, the group said in a report. Analysts matched names on the Forbes list of the 400 richest U.S. residents published in September and its database of farm subsidy recipients.
“Farm programs that benefit billionaires are indefensible and irresponsible,” said Alex Rindler, EWG policy associate and author of the analysis. “The information shows that our broken policies propped up the richest few at the expense of taxpayers and struggling families — that’s a backwards vision that no one should be proud of.”
Allen, with a net worth of $15.8 billion, and Charles Ergen, a co-founder of the DISH Network with a wealth estimated by Forbes at $12.5 billion, were the richest farm subsidy recipients.
The same billionaires may also have benefited from subsidized federal crop insurance, EWG said. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture is barred by law from releasing the names of those getting the insurance.
The richest farmers could benefit from a proposal by Congress to shift from direct subsidies to subsidized crop insurance, which involves no means testing, EWG said.