Farm subsidy data may be harder to get and track down in coming years, but fairly recent data is still available.
It's definitely out there -- and Texas got more of it than any other state in the union last year.
Thanks to federal freedom of information laws and the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, farm subsidy data is publicly available on the Internet, even though a recent decision by the Obama administration will make it harder from now on to track payments through the maze of ownership and identities through which the money may pass, as my colleague Steve Miller wrote the other day. (Hey, Mr. President, didn't you pledge to be more open and transparent? Like, on your first day in office?)
One and a half billion dollars of agricultural subsidies went to Texas in 2009, according to EWG's number-crunching, and $22.8 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2009. The crop that hauled in the most subsidy money was cotton -- more than $9 billion -- but it also included payments for wheat, sorghum, corn, rice, peanuts, livestock and federal disaster aid.
And the bulk of the subsidy money goes to a fairly small group of folks. Ten percent of Texas farmers raked in 78 percent of the subsidies, EWG says.
The top recipient in Texas last year: Lahey Farms of Brownfield, outside Lubbock in the South Plains, which received $795,140. You can also see the complete list here of the top farm subsidy recipients in the state last year.
It's not surprising that the list of counties that received the most subsidy money last year are in the cotton country of the South Plains and in the Panhandle. The county taking in the most in raw dollars: Gaines County, just south of Brownfield.
Texas Watchdog plotted the subsidy data on a map (below) of Texas counties -- the redder the red, the more subsidy money that county received in 2009. Counties that received the least subsidy money show up in pink, and those that didn't get any (just a handful in far East Texas) show up in white.
Looking at the counties that received the most subsidy money in 2009 per resident, the winner is Glasscock County. Glasscock County's 1,406 residents (at the time of the last Census in 2000 -- sorry, the Census Bureau didn't have any more recent estimates online) received an average of $8,500 per person in farm subsidy money, according to EWG.
A second map below shows subsidy money per resident in each county. Again, the redder the red, the greater the per-resident share of subsidy money.