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Thursday
Jun232011

City-Dwelling Landowners Get Paid Millions Not to Farm Secondary Estates

Ablestock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The government is paying hundreds of rich city-dwellers across the country hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars not to farm their rural secondary estates, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

"Unfortunately, people that live in cities like Manhattan or San Francisco that are absentee landlords and are very wealthy are taking our tax dollars and using them to help pad their bottom line," Don Carr, senior communications and policy advisor for the EWG, told ABC News.

According to the group, 290 people in New York City received farm subsidies in 2010 and raked in a total of $2,472,071; 734 "farmers" in Chicago got $2,173,344 in federal subsidies; and 203 people in Miami got $2,472,071 worth. On the West Coast, 179 people in San Francisco were paid $1,094,172.

One of those New York City "farmers" is Mark Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller and heir to one of the most celebrated fortunes in American history.

Rockefeller, who lives in a swanky Manhattan building, has received nearly $330,000 in taxpayer money over the past 10 years for his "farm" on the Snake River in Idaho. Rockefeller did not respond to an interview request made by ABC News.

The Rockefeller property is next to an upscale fishing lodge he owns where it costs $500 a day just for fly fishing.

"The EWG database has shed light on just how outdated and unfair our agriculture subsidies really are," said Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., in a prepared statement Thursday. "The database has hugely impacted this long-running debate and been a critical tool in revealing how taxpayer dollars are spent."

The payments are made under several different programs and could be from direct payments, disaster payments, conservation payments, counter-cyclical payments or price support payments, according to EWR.

"It is time this to end," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., told ABC News. "The more you find out about this government, the more absurd it is."

On May 31, the bi-partisan House Appropriations Committee voted to cut farm subsidies to pay for deficit reduction and other budget priorities, but a couple weeks later the House GOP members turned against the provisions that would have cut up to $167 million in direct payments to farmers, including some of the nation's wealthiest.

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