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Friday, December 9, 2016

December is a time of many holiday feasts — which makes it a good time to remember family farmers and the tremendous contributions they make to our country, culture, tastebuds and tummies. But not all farmers contribute equally, which is why I’m sending out this special holiday sentiment to one group of unique agriculturalists: Thbbllllttttt!

That raspberry goes out to 50 billionaires who’ve been farming the U.S. farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. They include top executives or owners of such diverse entities as Chase Manhattan Bank, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, Fiji Water, Hyatt Hotels, Microsoft and Victoria’s Secret. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched the “Forbes 400” list of richest Americans with a farm subsidy database to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a ripoff!

Among the richest of these faux-farmers are three Walmart heirs, whose personal wealth totals $100 billion. Then there’s investment huckster Charles Schwab, sitting on a $5 billion wad of wealth, yet pumping half a million dollars’ worth of rice subsidies into his California duck-hunting resort. Also, corporate takeover artist Henry Kravis, who has amassed some $5 billion in wealth, took more than a million dollars from us to subsidize safflower, sunflower and other crops raised on two of his ranches.

Especially jarring is the presence of such multibillionaire right-wingers such as oil and entertainment tycoon Philip Anschutz and nuclear waste mogul Harold Simmons. They’ve expressed disdain for government spending on poor people and other “takers,” yet they’ve gladly taken more than $500,000 each in farm payments.

Actually, the Working Group’s tally understates the total haul by these mega-rich tillers of our public treasury, for many also harvest crop insurance subsidies from the Department of Agriculture. But Congress did them the favor of outlawing any disclosure of this list of names to the public, even though it’s our money they receive. In fact, the most valuable ag asset that these billionaires have are the congresscritters who pull their legislative plows and carry this farm abundance to them.