Nearly every part of the Bundy family’s business is funded by government welfare programs.
The armed militiamen currently occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon have attempted to portray an image of themselves as rugged, independent Americans rejecting government interference in their businesses. But nearly every part of their existence as ranchers is made possible by government welfare programs — even the building they’re depending on for shelter from the cold was built by federal tax dollars as part of the New Deal program. Here are just a few ways taxpayers are subsidizing the livelihoods of cattle ranchers like the Bundy family:
1. Ammon Bundy’s loan from the Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a loan guarantee program for businesses that don’t qualify for assistance in the private credit market. As Mother Jones reported, Ammon Bundy — the ringleader of the Malheur takeover bemoaning federal overreach — got a $530,000 loan from the SBA in 2010 for his truck maintenance business in Arizona, costing taxpayers over $22,000. What the loan was used for or whether or not Bundy repaid it is not listed in public records.
2. The US government charges 93 percent less for cattle grazing than private landowners
One of the biggest gripes from cattle ranchers like Cliven Bundy and other Western cattlemen is that the federal government is bleeding ranchers dry with overpriced cattle grazing fees. But the opposite is true — in 2012, it cost roughly $1.35 a month for each cow to graze on federal land, as opposed to the average $20 per month charged by private landowners for cattle grazing. FiveThirtyEight.com illustrated the price difference in a graph:
If anybody is getting the raw end of the deal from the federal government’s cattle grazing prices, it’s the federal government. As of 2014, grazing fees only accounted for 15 percent of the total cost incurred for the Bureau of Land Management to manage land for cattle grazing. The other 85 percent comes from we, the taxpayers.
3. Ranchers get huge discounts on leases of public land
In Nevada, home of the Bundy family, 80 percent of the state’s land is owned by the federal government. But ranchers get to lease that land for their own private businesses at a huge discount. According to an investigation by The Atlantic, the lease discount program cost taxpayers anywhere from $52 million a year to $200 million, when accounting for all of the administrative overhead involved in managing the program.
4. Livestock farmers milk the “emergency” feed program even in non-drought years
Western states, like Nevada and Oregon, where ranchers like the Bundys reside, only produce roughly one-fifth of the nation’s beef supply, but require a considerable amount of taxpayer subsidies to stay afloat. The Atlantic estimates that the 11 Western states populated by ranchers eat up approximately $26 million per year.
5. Ranchers depend on big government assistance to keep livestock safe
The Bundys and other ranchers would have very little livestock to feed if it weren’t for the “animal damage control” program, in which federal employees kill off the nearby predators that present a danger to cattle. The Atlantic’s study of this program found that, again, Western ranchers are responsible for a disproportionate amount of taxpayer subsidies compared to the other 39 states:
In 1994 this program cost $55.9 million nationwide, of which roughly $22 million was spent on western livestock operations. The animals killed nationwide with this money included 163 black bears, 293 mountain lions, 1,928 bobcats, 8,973 foxes, and 85,571 coyotes.
If the Bundy family really wanted the “independence” from government they claim to stand for, their businesses would be underwater. Ammon Bundy and his gang should thank their lucky stars to benefit from so much government assistance.