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Subsidies favor big farms

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: These days farmers rely on federal subsidies and grants to get by. But a new study says small and medium-sized farms are often left out in the cold. Marketplace's Amy Scott reports.


AMY SCOTT: The nonprofit Center for Rural Affairs looked at four grant programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, for example, was set up in part to promote small and medium-sized dairies and farms.

Study co-author Jon Bailey, says that hasn't happened.

JON BAILEY: The two years we looked at there was about $500 million dedicated to these four programs, and we only found about five percent of the projects that were funded were beneficial to small and mid-sized and beginning farmers and ranchers.

Others say the study is misleading. Daniel Sumner with UC Davis recently received a grant from one of the programs to study the economics of obesity.

DANIEL SUMNER: Those grants may not have the words small farm in the title or the abstract, but they're really affecting all of agriculture.

But without more efforts to help family farms, and those just starting out, the study warns the mid-sized farm could all but disappear.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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