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Environmental Working Group Issues Analysis of Disaster Payments

Group notes that in the past 21 years a small group of recipients have gotten money almost every other year.

The pre-election enactment of a $6.55 billion farm disaster aid bill is getting different attention this week as the Environmental Working Group analyzes who gets such payments. A 20-year look at payments shows that between 1985 and 2005 $26 billion in emergency ag disaster aid was paid to more than 2 million farm and ranch operations.

According to a release by the group, EWG found that a vast majority of the 2 million recipients got it infrequently, with 75% collecting payments three years or less out of 21. However, the group did find that some 21,000 recipients (about 1%) collected aid 11 of 21 years, receiving $2.8 billion, or more than 10% of the total distributed.

For those, which EWG calls "chronic beneficiaries," the average amount received over that period was $118,000.

EWG President Ken Cook, in discussing the latest disaster aid package in the works, notes that his group "supports reasonable disaster aid for farmers and ranchers with proven, weather-related losses, unless provision of that assistance entails offsetting cuts to conservation, nutrition, rural development and other non-commodity program funds that have been slashed by Congress repeatedly for years."

The group also continues to oppose proposals to include added funds for subsidy crop farmers in the form of a 30% boost in their fixed direct crop payments, for what the group calls "the supposed purpose of reimbursing them for elevated energy costs in 2005 and 2006.

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