Thursday USDA made its "Entity File," public. The massive database file, which was released under the Freedom of Information Act, makes public - for the first time - the names, addresses, and business relationships of farmers who receive farm program or conservation payments as part of any business "entity," other than under his/her own name.
The file breaks out the business relationships of those who participate in "entities" such as corporations, partnerships and associations. The release does not include data on actual payments made to shareholders, but that information is scheduled to be released in August when a second data delivery - "the 1614 file" - is made public.
The information was requested under the FOIA by the Environmental Working Group, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and MultiAg Media. The 2002 Farm Bill mandates public disclosure of all beneficiaries of farm subsidies, and this is one step towards that mandate.
"The USDA is today peeling back another layer of the subsidy onion, and as a result, the public is one step closer to knowing where billions of federal tax dollars go each year," says EWG President Ken Cook. "These data will make it possible to trace in much greater detail than previously the ownership interests behind some of the largest, most heavily subsidized farm businesses in America."
The database does not include how money is paid together as cooperatives, "one obvious gap" in the transparency, Cook says.
EWG plans to analyze and prepare the new information and post to its Web site after the August release.