2020 USDA Farm Spending

In 2020, the USDA spent at least $52 billion on farm programs.

 $45,687,724,000 direct government payments
+ $6,318,773,649 crop insurance premium subsidies
= $52,006,497,6491

US Farm Spending was less than 3% for Fruits and Vegetables

Based on publicly available data, AFA estimates that supports for fruits and vegetables, not including soy or peanuts2, totaled $1.2 billion, or 2.5%. If the USDA ever clarifies what portion of CFAP2 spending went to fruit and veg producers, that number could potentially double to $2.4 billion or 5%.

Fruit total: $688 million (1.3%)
  • $278 million – Crop Insurance
  • $95 million – Market Facilitation Program
  • $290 million – CFAP1
  • $0 million – CFAP2 (most fruit & veg marked as ‘sales commodities‘ and can’t be traced.)
  • $25 million – SCBGP research (estimate)
Vegetables total: $625 million (1.2%)
  • $201 million – Crop Insurance
  • $30 million – ARC/PLC
  • $372 million – CFAP1
  • $0 – CFAP2 (veg marked as ‘sales commodities‘ so it’s impossible to trace.)
  • $25million – SCBGP research (estimate)

US Farm Spending just 5-11% for Foods Containing Fiber

The foods that contain fiber benefited the least from federal farm spending in 2020, receiving just 11%.

  • Nuts and Seeds 1.0%
  • Legumes for food 1.1%
  • Vegetables 1.2%
  • Fruits 1.3%
  • Grains for food 7% (note: grains often get stripped of dietary fiber before ending up in the American food supply)
$52 billion total (baseline + COVID & TRADE subsidies)
note: livestock includes sea animals too
$21 billion total (baseline subsidies)

A large Category is “Uncategorized”

So far, we’ve been unable to trace about $11.8 billion in spending on particular end products. The following are amounts we were unable to trace in each program:

  • $261 million – Crop Insurance
  • $816 million – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • $1.1 billion – Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • $2.4 billion – Market Facilitation Program
  • $650 million – Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP1)
  • $2.3 billion – Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2)
  • $4.2 billion – Other programs

Land Use Reflects Federal Farm Priorities

Roughly 77 million acres of American cropland are used to grow plant foods, while 128 million acres grow crops for livestock.3

Consumption Reflects Federal Farm Priorities

In a 2016 study from the CDC in conjunction with Emory University,4 researchers found that the modern subsidy breakdown isn’t as healthy as it could be:

Among US adults, higher consumption of calories from subsidized food commodities was associated with a greater probability of some cardiometabolic risks. Better alignment of agricultural and nutritional policies may potentially improve population health.

Association of Higher Consumption of Foods Derived From Subsidized Commodities With Adverse Cardiometabolic Risk Among US Adults, August 2016, CDC in conjunction with Emory U

Furthermore, according to the USDA5, Americans aren’t meeting their daily intake recommendations for fiber. Yet plant foods, the only foods containing fiber, are underrepresented in farm spending.

The good news is that the USDA knows how to advance the production of foods it favors. In the seventies, the Agriculture Secretary set a priority to grow corn and soy for animal feed. The result is that now, half of the American cropland grows corn and soy. Federal farm policy is powerful. If the USDA set its sights on helping American farmers to produce a diversified array of vegetables and fruits, they would likely do so.

  1. Since data was initially published at the end of 2020, the totals found at https://data.ers.usda.gov/reports.aspx?ID=17833 have decreased. However, underlying data reports seem to have either not changed, or risen. As a result, when we add up the underlying data it totals just under $55 billion. We base the percentages on $52 billion. This means that the percentage values we report may be higher than actual.
  2. Vegetables are in the culinary sense and thus do not include soy or peanuts. Most soy is processed into animal feed meal, cooking oil, biofuel, or processed foods, ( Soy Checkoff Fact Sheet PDF) none of which would be considered vegetables for human consumption. In our analysis, peanuts are broken out into two categories: “nuts and seeds” and “food oils”
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-us-land-use/
  4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2530901
  5. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/12_fiber_intake_0910.pdf