USDA will release a massive database today which, for the first time, will mean that payment data will be searchable for every individual in the U.S. who benefits from federal farm and conservation programs. In the past, while payments made to most individuals were available, shareholder data was obscured. Payment data for shareholders in farming corporations, members of agricultural cooperatives, and beneficiaries of estate trusts was obscured because only data on individuals was available from USDA. USDA made totals paid to a farming corporation, agricultural cooperative, estate trust, or Tribe. But section "1614" of the 2002 farm bill requires USDA to make it possible to track all farm and conservation benefits down to the individual, says Farm Service Agency administrator Teresa Lasseter.
USDA's Farm Service Agency is releasing the so-called "1614" database today to four organizations - including the Environmental Working Group - that filed Freedom of Information requests. The 1614 file includes millions of transactions which will be searchable in numerous breakouts, agency officials report. Individual data will be available for the first time to track benefits from commodity "certificate" payments, which are not subject to the payment limitation rule. When paired with a USDA database of recipients' names and addresses, which was released on June 9, it will be possible to search for full records of each individual's benefits -- regardless if they were paid through an umbrella entity such as a cooperative.