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Blanche Lincoln Oversees Agriculture Subsidies She Has Received

Yesterday, the White House endorsed Blanche Lincoln in her Senate primary against Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter, and the AFL-CIO endorsed Halter, committing $3 million dollars to an independent expenditure campaign for the May 18 race. Add that to the half a million dollars raised online for Halter within 7 hours, and he’s closing in on fundraising parity with the Arkansas incumbent.

Lincoln will surely rely on her incumbency and seniority in making her re-election pitch. She recently got the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and will probably use that perch as a justification for her to stay and “help Arkansas farmers” or something. But one Arkansas farmer that Lincoln has helped in the past has been… well, Blanche Lincoln.

Lincoln and her family have received millions of dollars in agricultural subsidies for the family rice farm over the past several years. Lincoln has tried to hide accountability on this by receiving the subsidies under her maiden name, Blanche Lambert. Lincoln/Lambert and her family members received $715,000 over the period from 1995-2005. Lincoln co-owned the farm receiving the subsidies, Grand Acres LLC, with her mother and her siblings. She actually held the largest ownership share.

Lincoln is also a beneficiary of the Jordan B. Lambert trust, her late father’s organization. You can see all the Lamberts receiving Ag subsidy payments at this chart. It’s quite a family business.

But that’s just the family farm. Lincoln’s father was on the board of Riceland Foods for 23 years until his death. Riceland was the recipient of $554 MILLION in subsidies from 1995-2006, roughly the same period as studied before. This includes at least $100 million in USDA subsidies each year from 2000-2002.

Lincoln claims that the subsidies ended after her father passed away and the land was sold in 2005. But while she was collecting Ag payments, she voted against the 2002 farm bill because it sought to cap those subsidies. She was the only Democrat to do so. She threatened to filibuster the 2007 farm bill for the same reason, that it would have limited Ag subsidies. As Environmental Working Group’s Ken Cook said at the time, “Democrats not only kept subsidies flowing unfettered to giant farms, they also prevented the savings these amendments would have generated from being invested in food stamps, conservation, organic agriculture and other chronically underfunded programs.” Blanche Lincoln headed up that effort.

Perhaps Arkansas farmers and agribusinesses will reward Lincoln for her efforts to protect their profits. But the groups most likely to vote in a Democratic primary are clustered in Pulaski County, in the middle of the state, and they may not be as partial to such a scheme. Especially when Lincoln herself was such a beneficiary of the payouts.

More later on this. Stay tuned…

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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