USDA Pays Farm Subsidies To Dead Farmers

The USDA likes to pay dead farmers to grow corn, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Some of the dead farmers received in excess of $500,000 in government subsidies. Hmm! How very mysterious!

From the GAO’s report:

USDA has made farm program payments to estates more than 2 years after recipients died, without determining, as its regulations require, whether the estates were kept open to receive these payments. As a result, USDA cannot be assured that farm payments are not going to estates kept open primarily to obtain these payments. From 1999 through 2005, USDA did not conduct any of the required eligibility determinations for 73, or 40 percent, of the 181 estates GAO reviewed. Sixteen of these 73 estates had each received more than $200,000 in farm payments, and 4 had each received more than $500,000.

Gee, that sounds bad. So, how much did it cost us? $1.1 billion dollars!

For 1999 through 2005, USDA paid $1.1 billion in farm payments in the names of 172,801 deceased individuals (either as an individual recipient or as a member of an entity). Of this total, 40 percent went to those who had been dead for 3 or more years, and 19 percent to those dead for 7 or more years.

Good job, USDA! You are broken.

USDA Needs to Strengthen Management Controls to Prevent Improper Payments to Estates and Deceased Individuals (PDF) [Government Accountability Office]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sidecutter says:

    Is anyone actually checking this stuff against prior articles? This was already brought up less than a day ago!

  2. dbeahn says:

    No it wasn’t. If it was, then post the link to it please.

  3. Bay State Darren says:

    Let me guess: this info was only uncovered when yet another misplaced laptop of important data wound up in a journalist’s hands.

  4. Xerloq says:

    I think the whole subsidy system is busted. If someone can show me how paying a bunch of people billions of dollars to stop producing goods helps foster competition and bolsters the economy, I’ll listen.
    Paying to dead, people is just more evidence. But hey, if a dog can vote and dead people pay taxes, I guess it’s all good.

  5. Scott says:

    Umm, this isn’t as big of a scandal as you make it out to be. The report says that the USDA is not verifying well enough the validity of paying dead farmers. There are valid reasons to continue paying subsidies to the estates of deceased farmers (the report does not state what those are) but the USDA needs to annually determine if an estate is eligible to continue receiving money.

    The $1.1 billion figure is a good headline but is an exaggeration of the amount of money paid improperly. And the report recommends the USDA attempt to get all erroneously appropriated money back.

  6. kylere says:

    When part of the US government wastes ONLY 1.1 billion over the course of 6 years, I am proud of them.

  7. ChaosMotor says:

    Wow, farm subsidies and the farm bill, designed to bilk taxpayers out of billions of dollars by eliminating import competition, paying corporate farmers NOT to grow crops in order to artificially inflate food prices that are already inflated because of demand for ethanol, which increases the price of corn, which increases the price of everything that contains corn including beef, chicken, milk, etc., and they reap the benefits both of being paid NOT to produce more, and the higher prices created by the shortage; is a SCAM? No f’n way!

  8. Jiminy Christmas says:

    What I want to know is how many of those farmers have six children and drive Cadillacs while they’re not even planting anything. Those worthless crackers need to get real jobs and stop sucking off the government teat.

    Oh wait, that’s not who the outrage is usually reserved for, is it?

  9. MrEvil says:

    Alright, all of you cussing farmers don’t get to eat ANYTHING unless you’ve grown it yourself. You only think you have it bad.

    My dad and I run a small farm growing mostly wheat and grazing cattle. My dad drives a 1978 Ford F350 I drive a 1992 Ford Explorer with 212,000 miles on it. Oh yeah, those fucking government payments sure are letting us live it the fuck up. We have it so great we even get to work day jobs just to make a decent living.

    Agriculture is the ONLY industry where the producers (the farmers) can’t sell their product at the price they want. There’s no competition with or without the subsidies since we can’t dictate the price. If it weren’t for the government’s pittance it sends every year we’d not have enough to buy seed and fuel to get the next crop planted.

    Also, with agriculture it’s alot like playing Vegas, the odds are against you. It’s a gamble putting a crop in the ground, and if your crop doesn’t make you have NO MONEY. It’s like working a regular job for sixth months without a paycheck then once the six months comes around the boss says “Oh sorry, we can’t pay you for your past six months of work.” Unfortunately we can neither predict the future nor control the weather. We have no idea when a hailstorm is going to wipe us out, or if a lack of rainfall is going to make us waste several thousand dollars worth of seed and chemical. Crop insurance at least pays us back for the wasted materials and a little extra, but you can’t make a living off it (though there’s plenty that try)

    No mistaking the USDA needs to make some changes, but penalizing us little farmers trying to eke something off the land isn’t going to help. All you’ll end up with is poisoned food made in China. You pull up to the pump and you see how being dependent on a foreign entity for fuel is. How would you like being completely dependent on a foreign entity for food?

    Sorry for the book, but just be glad that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, at a price that’s still cheap. Y’all are living in your own little microcosm and are far too used to that paycheck you get on a regular basis. It doesn’t work that way for us farmers.

  10. Chicago7 says:

    It seems like it would be smart to hire somebody who could create a database that track this. You pay $60,000 per year for that position and save taxpayers $1 Billion.

  11. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Hey now…isn’t the term “dead” a bit discriminatory? I prefer the term “living impaired.”

  12. randomizer9 says:

    The undead and merely latching onto the ‘green’ trend and are growing Zombie Corn!

  13. BigHeadStu says:

    Kudos! Farmers in this country don’t get enough credit for the backbreaking work that they do! To say nothing of the godawful beauracracy imposed upon that industry…

    At everyone else responding, and reading…

    Please! A little perspective…

    This study revealed findings from 1999 to 2005…

    Source: [] Beware, its a PDF…

    USDA says the farm bill cost 82 billion dollars annually from 2002 to 2004…and then the cost in 05 was 100 billion. 3 x 82 = 246, plus 100, equals 346 billion for 02-05

    Assuming that the costs from 1999 were slightly lower, but similar…let’s say 75 billion a year…so 3 years at 75 billion equals 225…

    Add it all up…571 billion dollars spent on the farm bill in the 6 years analyzed but GAO…and they found 1.1 billion dollars in misappropriated money…

    Percentage? well, 1.1 / 571 = .00192644…safely rounded to .0019 which is .19%

    An error rate of .19% is pretty amazing…so let’s chill out on the shock value of 1.1 billion.

    Focus instead on what that 1.1 billion could have done otherwise…

  14. tz says:

    I thought corpses produced methane, not ethanol.