Total spending on farm programs is an extremely small portion of the total federal budget. My friend, colleague, and collaborator, Nick Paulson, along with Gary Schnitkey, blogs about this fact over at the farmdocdaily blog. Among other things, they point out that farm program spending in minuscule compared to spending on entitlement programs and defense. That might not be the best comparison–everything is minuscule compared to those programs. It’s more useful to know what programs are comparable to farm programs. Here are a few numbers (from my dissertation, so a bit dated, but still relevant to illustrate the point):

Comparably-sized Federal Programs

The most meaningful way to compare farm programs with other federal programs is to do it on a per-beneficiary level. Entitlement programs are huge because they cover large swaths of the population. Farm-program spending is small, but it benefits an even smaller slice of the population. Here are the relevant numbers:

Average household receipts from select federal programs in 2002

As far as I can tell, Veterans programs are the only long-standing federal program whose recipients benefit more per-capita than farmers.

So if you’re trying to reduce the deficit, slashing farm programs won’t get you very far. But in terms of benefits per recipient, farm programs are one of the largest federal redistribution programs.