Our View: Time to Tune Out EWG

November 12, 2013

We didn’t think it could get more egregious than the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and its hired guns overestimating 2012 drought related expenses by an unbelievable $26 billion then proceeding to compare the men and women who feed America to cheap drunks at an open bar.

We were wrong. EWG’s report “Billionaires cash in on farm subsidies,” is as bad and irrelevant as it gets.

To publicize its “analysis,” EWG singles out a dozen billionaires for raking in farm subsidies, including the founders of Microsoft, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, and Charles Schwab Corp. EWG failed to mention these individuals, like other wealthy non-billionaires, have received almost no money under the 2008 Farm Bill because Congress closed such loopholes long ago.

It also wasn’t very upfront about the fact that this data, being passed off as new information, is more than a decade old in most cases.

Ironically, the tiny bit of subsidy money going to billionaires in recent years appears to be tied to conservation – environmental subsidies that EWG supports and would like to expand. Not surprisingly, EWG glossed over conservation subsidies in its shoddy report, which again appears to be designed to garner anti-farmer headlines rather than to further public debate.

Also ironic is the fact that EWG criticized farms for receiving disaster assistance many years ago, even though EWG is leading lobbying efforts against modern-day crop insurance. This insurance system is partially funded by farmers and the private sector and has largely replaced taxpayer-funded disaster payments.

Since EWG won’t give people the whole story on the “fat cats” it spotlighted, allow us to fill in the blanks with information it omitted. 

Paul Allen, Co-founder of Microsoft

  • Has received $120,009 in conservation subsidies, but none since 2005
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2006

Charles Ergen, Co-founder of DISH Network

  • Has received $29,441 in conservation subsidies, but none since 2008
  • Has never received any commodity-related assistance
  • Has not received disaster assistance since 2008

Philip Anschutz, Co-founder of Major League Soccer

  • Has received $8,712 in conservation subsidies, but none since 1999
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2003

Leonard Lauder, former CEO of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc.

  • Has received $93,350 in conservation subsidies, but none since 2003
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2005

Richard DeVos, Co-founder of Amway

  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2006

Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises

  • Has received $12,517 in conservation subsidies, including a payment in 2011
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2004

S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A

  • Has received nothing except for a $4,536 disaster payment in 2003

Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands Inc.

  • Has received $34,426 in conservation subsidies, but none since 1998
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2003

Charles Schwab, Founder of Charles Schwab Corp.

  • Has received $6,494 in conservation subsidies, but none since 1995
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2003

Stewart & Lynda Resnick, Owners of POM Wonderful, Fiji Water and Teleflora

  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2003

David Rockefeller, Sr., Former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank

  • Has received $27,342 in conservation subsidies, but none since 2007
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2006

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

  • Payments were shared with at least 10 other family members
  • Has received $567,100 in conservation subsidies, but none since 2004
  • Has received no commodity-related assistance since 2006

Bottom line, EWG is republishing old and irrelevant data in a misleading manner. The loopholes have been closed for years, and EWG’s favored conservation subsidies were just as egregious as the assistance it opposes.

In farm country where common sense is commonplace, folks don’t listen to people who continuously lie, intentionally misinform, or overshoot by a mile. The time has come for lawmakers and big city reporters follow suit and finally tune out EWG and other professional critics.