The Hidden Farm Bill: Secret Trillions for Agribusiness

See links that show the HIDDEN Farm Bill, BELOW.

The VISIBLE Farm Bill Vs. the HIDDEN Farm Bill

Those who focus attention of farmer subsidies as the key farm bill issue have been limiting advocacy to the VISIBLE Farm Bill, which is farm bill spending.  There is also a HIDDEN Farm Bill,1 which has a much bigger impact (about 8 times bigger).  Subsidy advocates have almost wholly ignored the HIDDEN Farm Bill, not advocating for ANY reforms of it.  Their advocacy, therefore, has been AGAINST the first farm bill victims, Commodity Farmers, and  unknowingly FOR  Agribusiness Buyers (export dumpers, food and feed mills and processors of HFCS, transfats, ethanol, etc., and animal factories).  The Farm Bill reduced (1953-1995) and ended (1996-2018) commodity Price Floors and Supply Management, lowering farmer income by trillions of dollars (ie. $2 trillion for corn plus soybeans, 1953-2010, adjusted for inflation).2  Farm Subsidies compensated these victims by only about one eighth of that, for a net reduction of seven eights per unit.  These subsidies are VISIBLE in the Farm Subsidy Database and at USDA.3  The lower Price Floors and prices, however, served as a massive HIDDEN gain for the agribusiness, (then passed on to consumers,) at the expense of farmers.  These hidden agribusiness benefits are about 8 times bigger than the visible farmer subsidies, per unit (ie. per bushel of corn, pound of cotton, or gallon of milk).

How to Advocate for a Just Farm Bill

The needed policies to address the cheap price problems are Price Floors and Supply Reductions (as needed to balance supply and demand). These are found in the “Food from Family Farms Act of the National Family Farm Coalition, plus NFFC’s dairy bill, SB 1640.4  The National Farmers Union has an alternative proposal, the “Market Driven Inventory System.”  By calling for mere subsidy reforms, to limit compensations to the victims, and by calling for no market management policies and programs (ie. Price Floors), “subsidy reform” advocates have sided with the exploiters (agribusiness buyers plus indirect agribusiness beneficiaries, such as those selling inputs [ie. pesticides, machinery, fertilizer,] to farmers,) against the victims (farmers).

Myths Debunked when the HIDDEN Farm Bill is made VISIBLE

Related to all of this are a series of myths, which are debunked when the HIDDEN Farm Bill is made VISIBLE.  Some of these are corrected as follows:

VISIBLE Farm Bill spending is the smaller part of the farm bill.  The HIDDEN Farm Bill is bigger.

The Commodity Title is correctly seen as bigger than the Nutrition Title, when the HIDDEN Farm Bill data is made VISIBLE.

The bigger the farm, the bigger the HIDDEN reduction,  and also the bigger the Net Reduction (HIDDEN reductions + VISIBLE subsidies).

Iowa has bigger HIDDEN reductions than, for example, California or Texas, and bigger net reductions, as explained in #3.

Corn has the biggest HIDDEN reductions, and net reductions, so therefore corn, (like Iowa,) is “the biggest loser” in the Farm Bill.  Corn is a “pauper,” not a “King.”

Corn and Soybeans provide key ingredients for junk food and feed for animal factories, therefore subsidizing them.  This is caused by the HIDDEN Farm Bill, not by Farm Subsidies.  The real amount of the benefits they get is bigger than the amounts in the false claims of subsidy advocates.

In all of this, advocacy for mere subsidy reforms of any kind (caps/limits, elimination, green subsidies,) without any advocacy for adequate Price Floors and related policies, is advocacy FOR agribusiness exploitation and against the victims (farmers in the US and globally), NOT AGAINST agribusiness and for farmers.

Mere subsidy reforms are, therefore, bad for health concerns, the environment, animal welfare, the global food poverty crisis, farm justice and food justice.

Seeing the HIDDEN Farm Bill:  The Data

The VISIBLE Farm Bill is just the tip of the iceberg, as these data charts clearly show. It’s visible above water, for example as Farm Commodity Subsidies that make ADD TO farm income.  HIDDEN below the water is a much bigger Farm Bill that SUBTRACTS FROM farm income.  Congress lowered nonsubsidy Price Floors over and over again, and them eliminated them (& supply management) in the 1996 Farm bill. It is essential that media and activists see the whole farm bill, and advocate for real reforms, on that basis.  Through the link below you can see a mass of data from the HIDDEN Farm Bill, illustrated on summary charts.

Making the HIDDEN Farm Bill VISIBLE.  See data slides here:  http://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/presentations

These are the key sets of data charts that were originally posted in my zspace photo albums (as in the original version of this blog).

“Hidden Farm Bill Pie”  (spending vs HIDDEN market management, such as how the Commodity Title is bigger than the Nutrition Title)

“Hidden Farm Bill:  Debunking 3 Myths” (big vs small farms, Iowa vs California, Corn & Soybeans)

“Dairy Crisis Slides”

“When Farm Bills Made a Profit!”

“Farm Bill Slides”

“Farm bill Slides 2”

I’m now posting them on slideshare as I get time.  See the slideshare link above.

You can also see them in videos I post on YouTube.  Here’s the latest one, summarizing the whole issue, (and I APOLOGIZE THAT I SET THE SOUND TOO LOUD!!!!):

Here:  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQkeDza3bM0&list=PLA1E706EFA90D1767&index=1).

Here below is the general link to my “Farm Bill & Food Bill” playlist, where you can see my “Food Films Review” and two-part “Michael Pollan Rebuttal,”  (part 1, part 2) which shows how to fix Pollan’s misguided support for agribusiness (which he did NOT intend to do).


My video, “The Dairy Crisis & the 2012 Farm Bill,” is on my “Dairy Crisis” playlist,  starting here:  (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9AB172F046C852C2).


1. Brad Wilson, “The Hidden Farm Bill,” SlideShare, 8/13/14, (http://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/the-hidden-farm-bill-37959389).

2.  Price Floor data can be found in various older editions of the the NASS Annual, “Agricultural Statistics,” and in other places.  Price Floors were also called the “Loan Rate” until 1996 when that term no longer referred to a Price Floor.  (Contact me if you’re serious about finding the data.)  (Here:  http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Ag_Statistics/).  Farm income for various crops comes from price x production.  The best data source for that is the “Historical Track Record:  Crop Production,” here


3. Farm Subsidy Database, Environmental Working Group, http://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=00000.  Without the HIDDEN Farm Bill Data, EWG’s data and analysis is misleading, and is (unknowingly) reverse advocacy, FOR agribusiness exploitation, and AGAINST justice, the environment, health, etc.  USDA posts some kinds of data on earlier subsidies online, including subsidies for individual crops, sometimes, though it varies over time. See, for example, the Agriculture Fact Book 1994, Table A-3, “Direct Government Payments, by program, 1950-1992.”   (This was once online, and I’ve asked them to put it back up.) This data was also online in a more updated version.  In 1995 USDA’s method of showing the data changed.  The form of presentation changed to group crops together by subsidy type (all “Countercyclical Payments,” “Direct Payments,” etc.) and not showing all types of subsidies for individual crops.  So go to EWG for data on individual crops on these later years (after 1995).  Here’s another source of data for all rice subsidies and all rice Price Floors (http://hsus.cambridge.org/HSUSWeb/toc/showTable.do?id=Da1357-1476).  For Price Floors (called loan rates,) keep in mind that the “Loan Rate” did not serve as a price floor after 1995 .  “See Selected commodity program provisions-corn, wheat, rice, and upland cotton: 1933-1999.”  For subsidy data see there:  “Direct commodity program and other payments, by commodity or purpose: 1933-1999.”  Again, for free data see the sources above, or contact me.

4. “Fact Sheet: Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill,” http://www.zcomm.org/fact-sheet-farm-justice-proposals-for-the-2012-farm-bill-by-brad-wilson, (and see more links there).

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