Millions in farm subsidies given to dead US farmers

I really felt this needed to be shared

July 31 2013

Millions of dollars have gone to farmers years after their death as part of various farm safety net programs under the US Department of Agriculture, according to a recent government audit.

Federal auditors who poured through the USDA’s crop insurance, disaster assistance and conservation programs have found that $36.6 million were disbursed to deceased recipients, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report points to the biggest offender as the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which disburses crop insurance, as having issued $22 million in subsidies one or two years after a recipient’s death.

The report has been released ahead of meetings in the House and Senate to hammer out a farm bill that may expand subsidies like crop insurance, and casts doubts on the Agriculture Department’s ability to weed out waste, fraud and abuse.

The GAO itself states that findings “may call into question whether these farm safety net programs are benefiting the agricultural sector as intended.”

Though the funds improperly doled out to the deceased farmers represent a fraction of the $20 billion in annual federal subsidies for farm incomes, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the report also comes at a critical juncture for Congress as both parties spar over the total cost of a pending $1 trillion farm bill. And if segments such as crop insurance do increase as expected, then the USDA’s inability to detect waste or fraud may only increase accordingly.

For its part, the department of agriculture is not disputing the GAO’s findings, though it has taken exception to claims that it did not have sufficient controls in place to detect improper payments, according to the New York Times.

Environmental activists, who oppose federal subsidies that, for example, encourage an artificially inflated production of corn – with implications into the popularity of GMO crops and the widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup – point to government waste as indicating a need for reforms.

“Not only are unlimited crop insurance subsidies flowing to the largest and most successful farm businesses, they are now going to deceased policyholders,” said Scott Faber, vice president of the Environmental Working Group in a statement issued Monday.

“At a time when some lawmakers want to cut off funding for the hungriest children, we find out today the federal government has spent $22 million over four years to lavish insurance subsidies to individuals who are no longer alive,” added Faber.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) opposes what it deems “bloated” farm subsidies that produce ultimately harmful incentives to plow up wetlands, grasslands and marginal lands, or place any emphasis on soil health. As RT recently reported, corn subsidies combined with a growing deficiency in GMO corn has resulted in greater use of pesticides.

According to a recent report published by the journal Food Policy cited by EWG US farm subsidies ultimately “have negligible impact on the prices paid by consumers for food. EWG cites other evidence that even the total elimination of US farm programs “would have a very modest effect on farm prices and production” of subsidized crops such as corn and wheat.

Though the debate over whether the currently gargantuan sum doled out by the federal government in the form of the farm bill is fair, is ongoing, this latest disclosure of funds making their way to deceased individuals only provides more ammunition to critics of government waste.

Both EWG and a slew of advocacy organizations that are concerned over everything from GMOs to pesticide use argue that crop insurance programs in particular have been transformed from their original intent, which was to compensate farmers from weather-caused crop losses, to a virtual guarantee of farm income.

GAO auditors are now suggesting that the USDA implement use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to identify payments made to dead individuals. According to the GAO, agencies under the department of agriculture are currently utilizing an incomplete version of that data, and thus failing to identify deceased recipients.
Source

If there is one thing the US Government does really well it is waste money. Their accounting is just horrid.

I wonder if they ever found the trillions lost as reported the day before 9/11 and If I remember correctly they lost and\other trillion or so latter, as well as all the money lost on contractors during the Iraq war?

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New US gov’t study shows mercury in fish widespread

By DINA CAPPIELLO
August 19 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) – No fish can escape mercury pollution.

That’s the take-home message from a federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday that tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country. The toxic substance was found in every fish sampled, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.

But while all fish had traces of contamination, only about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation’s streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish, including bass, trout and catfish, from 291 streams nationwide.

“This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks here and abroad rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury – a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.

Some of the highest levels in fish were detected in the remote blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, where bacteria in surrounding forests and wetlands help in the conversion. The second-highest concentration of mercury was detected in largemouth bass from the North Fork of the Edisto River near Fairview Crossroads, S.C.

“Unfortunately, it’s the case that almost any fish you test will have mercury now,” said Andrew Rypel, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Mississippi who has studied mercury contamination in fish throughout the Southeast. He said other research has shown mercury in fish from isolated areas of Alaska and Canada, and species that live in the deep ocean.

Mercury was also found in high concentrations in western streams that drain areas mined for mercury and gold. The most contaminated sample came from smallmouth bass collected from the Carson River at Dayton, Nev., an area tainted with mercury from gold mining. At 58 other streams, mostly in the West, the acidic conditions created by mining could also be contributing to the mercury levels, the researchers said.

“Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others,” said Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study.

All but two states – Alaska and Wyoming – have issued fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination. Some of the streams studied already had warnings.

“This is showing that the problem is much more widespread,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stronger advisories on consumption of mercury-laden fish and controls on the sources of mercury pollution. “If you are living in an area that doesn’t have a mercury advisory, you should use caution.”

Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would begin crafting a new regulations to control mercury emissions from power plants after a federal appeals court threw out plans drafted by the Bush administration and favored by industry. The Bush rule would have allowed power plants to buy and sell pollution credits, instead of requiring each plant to install equipment to reduce mercury pollution.

The EPA also has also proposed a new regulation to clamp down on emissions of mercury from cement plants.

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On the Net:

U.S. Geological Survey: http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/mercury/

Source