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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Isles next to last in farmer subsidies

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Hawai'i farmers received $16.3 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidies from 1995 through 2005, says a watchdog group that wants Congress to reduce crop-support payments in agriculture legislation that lawmakers will debate next year.

That ranked Hawai'i 49th out of 50 states during that time, with Rhode Island the only state receiving fewer overall farm subsidies, the Environmental Working Group said yesterday.

The top three Hawai'i recipients of farm subsidies during the period were Island Dairy Inc. in Waimea, Big Island ($296,446), Haleakala Ranch Co. in Makawao, Maui ($278,997) and Kuahiwi Contractors Inc. in Papa'ikou, Big Island ($274,833).

The report was released as U.S. lawmakers begin to debate legislation that will determine farm programs beyond 2010. Subsidies, which encourage lower prices, benefit commodity buyers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and ConAgra Foods Inc. The Environmental Working Group says the payments distort trade, harm economic development in poorer nations and benefit large agribusinesses instead of small farms.

Government subsidies to corn and cotton farmers, as well as payments linked to natural disasters and conservation programs, reached all-time highs last year, according to the report, which is based on government data the group compiles through public records and federal Freedom of Information Act requests.

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.