Spend our Money Wisely
Marylanders pay taxes that support many essential things: roads, schools, and public safety, to name a few. Marylander taxpayers also dedicate millions of dollars in tax credits and subsidies to fund farmer efforts. Given how difficult farming is and that almost all of us rely on others to grow our food, it makes perfect sense that we would do all we can to support farmers. But who, exactly, should be receiving those funds?
The Environmental Working Group reports that the federal government paid out $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies to 50 billionaires or farm businesses in which they had an interest between 1995 and 2012. In Maryland, as well, the game also appears rigged. Maryland taxpayers spent millions to reduce poultry manure pollution from the half billion chickens owned by large poultry companies on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Here are some examples of taxpayer funding spent on agriculture:
- According to the Maryland Dept. of Budget and Management, between 2008 and 2010 Perdue, with annual sales of $4.8 billion, was paid $2.5 million by the Manure Transport Program to remove waste from its contract farms.
- Tufts University estimates that the chicken industry alone saved $1.25 billion in feed costs from 1997 to 2005 just from taxpayer-funded subsidies.
- As demand for chicken meat remains far below the number of birds who are actually being raised and killed, rather than allowing the market to adjust to basic supply and demand principles, in 2013 the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would purchase 138.7 million pounds of surplus chicken leg quarters sitting in cold storage to help ease the surplus. The dollar amount was not disclosed.
Is this the best use of our public dollars? What are we getting, as Marylanders, for this investment? Government uses tax incentives to promote policies that help the public good – agriculture subsidies must be open and transparent, and directed to practices that reliably reduce pollution.
Numerous studies show that Bay pollution from manure is getting worse, not better. And, despite these investments, in 2013, one out of every three farms that was audited by the Maryland Department of Agriculture had major violations of their nutrient management plans and a quarter remained out of compliance even after follow up visits.
We can do better. Large poultry companies are making billions of dollars of profits. These corporations should be able afford to pay to cleanup the waste their industry generates. It’s not fair to push cleanup costs onto the public, with little or no transparency.
Fair Farms believes taxpayer dollars should be directed to those farmers who are using responsible and sustainable practices, not the large corporations looking to pad their bottom line.