i want facts, figures & long, boring reports!
September 16, 2011 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find the latest figures and in-depth reports on annual U.S. government subsidies?

Specifically, I'm looking for subsidies provided to the oil & gas industry, as well as the farming & agriculture industry. I would also appreciate not just figures but any links to wonkish and long, boring (to some) reports on the subject.

FWIW, I work in staffing and this is for my own private understanding of how much money the government provides to these industries.

Any links to similar reports or information for other industries that receive a large amount of government subsidies is much appreciated.
posted by glaucon to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well the federal ag subsidies are pretty much all part of the budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The whole thing is about $150 billion, but that includes both things like crop insurance, which most people don't consider to be a "subsidy" in the same way that simply handing out money is a "subsidy," but also nutritional assistance programs like food stamps and school lunch programs. The numbers are all in the budget, though it'll take some reading to educate yourself on exactly what they're doing. The biggest actual subsidy program is the Community Credit Corporation which looks to have a budget of about $11 billion this year.

As to state and local subsidies, you're on your own, but know that whatever the states are doing is likely to be smaller, both individually and in the aggregate, than what the USDA is doing.

But gas and oil subsidies? Those are a bit harder to pin down, as they including "funding" from a number of sources. But the reason "funding" is in quotes is that a lot of gas and oil "subsidies" are actually tax breaks, guaranteed loans, construction bonds, royalty holidays, and the like, and so the total isn't really kept track of in any single place. Here's a decent article describing the problems with coming up with this number.

For example, if ag and oil subsidies were fundamentally similar, one would expect that the U.S. Department of Energy to be responsible for giving out this money. Doesn't work that way. Its entire budget is "only" about $27 billion, but about $16.5 billion of that has to do with atomic energy and defense, and less than $1 billion is spent on fossil energy programs, mostly R&D. But a single tax break that a few Democratic senators proposed eliminating? $18 billion. And there are probably a few dozen of these, most smaller, some larger, lying around in the tax code.

Tl;dr: Agriculture subsidies are basically the province of the USDA, and you can look at their budget to get an idea about what's going on there, but gas and oil subsidies are a bewildering patchwork of programs and tax cuts which aren't kept track of in any single, organized place.
posted by valkyryn at 6:13 AM on September 16, 2011

I can't help with details, but one standard reference is the Joint Committee on Taxation's annual report on tax expenditures.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2011

You could look at OECD work on fossil fuel subsidies. The first link under Background on this page is a 50-page pdf, which amonst other things quantifies existing subsidies in the OECD.
posted by TristanPK at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2011

I just heard a public service announcement today about Federal Depository Libraries, which I never knew existed. May be able to help your search.
posted by raisingsand at 8:07 PM on September 16, 2011

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