US farm commodity production (2004)
Rank Commodity Production (MT) Subsidies (2004 USD) Notes
1 Maize 299917100 $5,308,631,480
2 Indigenous Cattle Meat 11100000 $27,034,709
3 Cow Milk, Whole, Fresh 77475400 $206,160,460 1
4 Soybeans 85012800 $1,449,036,750
5 Indigenous Chicken Meat 15516000 $27,034,709 2
6 Wheat 58737800 $1,540,924,302
7 Indigenous Pigmeat 8960000 $27,034,709 2
8 Hen Eggs 5278300 $27,034,709 2
9 Tomatoes 12766000 3
10 Potatoes 20685670 3
11 Indigenous Turkey Meat 2441200 $27,034,709 2
12 Grapes 5653336 3
13 Rice, Paddy 10469730 $661,501,871 4
14 Oranges 11677280 3
15 Lettuce 4976880 3
16 Sorghum 11554970 $369,619,359
17 Apples 4726390 $42,399 5, $92,333,902 in 2003.
18 Sugar Beets 27175630 $804,477 5, $48,301,887 in 2003.
19 Strawberries 1004169 3
20 Groundnuts in Shell 1945090 3
All Farm Commodities $10,233,612,451 6

For major deviations from average, or other data regarding trends, see notes. All dollar amounts given in USD for the particular statistic's stated year or years.
Production data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, given in Metric Tons. Subsidy data is an aggregate of reporting from the USDA, and includes direct payments, indirect payments, and crop insurance premium subsidies, as well as all other reported subsidies, when applicable.

1) Reported number is for total dairy subsidy, the vast majority of which - numbers range from 80-95% - is for the production of cow milk. Dairy subsidy totals fluctuate wildly. $118,391,201 in 2001, over $860,000,000 each in 2002 and 2003.
2) Data is for total livestock subsidies; 2004 is the second lowest total in 15 years for this category. 15 year average is $231,000,000/year.
3) None, or no data
4) Subsidies peaked in 2003, but were $1.1 - $1.5 Billion per year between 1999-2003. 2004 shows a return to close to the 15-year average.
5) Subsidies in the middle of sharp declines, culminating in zero or negligible subsidies for 5 years or more.
6) Total federal subsidy for farm commodities, including those not listed.

Above you see a snapshot of US farm commodity production and federal subsidy payments for calendar year 2004. 2004 is the only year since 1995 for which which certain criteria for data compilation could be met by single-source suppliers. The criteria were: Internal consistency; no estimates, official figures only; and complete data for all selected points of interest (as listed in the above chart).

The USDA in particular was difficult to source internally consistent information for, as they have changed their accounting categories and reporting practices drastically since 2005, particularly for countercyclical payments and certain types of direct payments. Commodity production totals are also difficult to source fine-grained official figures for, as there is no official agency in the United States which discharges that function publicly; the United Nations FAO directly solicits and compiles official figures from the appropriate agencies in all UN countries, but those requests do not always receive a response.

2004 was an interesting year for several reasons. Several traditionally large subsidies were in the middle of, or beginning, steep declines. It was also the final year of subsidies (a negligible ~$5,000 USD) for tobacco, which from 2000-2003 averaged about $132,600,000 per year in subsidies, and it was not until 2008 and 2009 when those subsidies would abruptly return at over $200,000,000 per year.

Regrettably, due to the lack of availability of (and extreme complexity involved in compiling from disparate sources) accurate and correct US domestic commodity pricing outside of a rolling 18-month lookback, I am unable to give a proper analysis of the total discount to theoretical unsubsidized prices in the domestic market. Global commodity prices, in the form of World Bank Commodity Price History (Pink Data), are readily available, but US domestic subsidies compared to global commodity price averages are a meaningless exercise.

Another interesting piece of information regarding farm subsidies is that from 1995-2005, the top 10% of recipients of subsidies collected 74% of the total benefits, with the top 1% collecting 25%. This disparity is a major issue among activists who work for subsidy reform. They point out that the vast advantage of economies of scale are already working in favor of these huge agribusiness companies, and that further subsidies amount to pure corporate welfare. Proponents of the current system point out that food is food, regardless of who grows it, and that further politicization of the process would involve further intrusion into independent farmers' lives.

USDA Economic Research Service
Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database
UN Food and Agriculture Organization

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