In conjunction with National Public Radio, the Center for Investigative Reporting helped research and report on one of the largest recipients of federal farm subsidies, the legendary King Ranch of Texas. As NPR’s Peter Overby reports, from 1999-2005 King Ranch raked in $8.3 million in subsidies for growing cotton.
Though family owned, King Ranch is probably not what most people would think of as a family farm. It is a politically savvy corporate conglomerate that has its own political action committee and a well-connected lobbyist to help shape this year’s Farm Bill. Out of King Ranch’s 1,200 square miles of land, only 23 are dedicated to growing cotton.
Additionally, powerful political figures sit on the ranch’s board of directors, including former Secretary of State James Baker, and Ray Hunt, a Texas oil tycoon with Washington connections who is ranked as one of the richest men in America by Forbes. The ranch’s CEO, Jack Hunt, was appointed to the Texas Water Development Board by then Governor George W. Bush of Texas.
Additional reporting by CIR shows that from 1997–2006, King Ranch made at least $960,000 in federal campaign contributions, including soft money. The contributions came from King Ranch’s PAC, executives, and board members.
Since 2001, King Ranch spent at least $850,000 on lobbying. To lobby for the Farm Bill, King Ranch hired Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch where Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot attorney Harry Whittington.
For all the lobbying power, however, Overby reports that King Ranch hardly cares about the cotton subsidies. The company says it applies for the subsidies because that’s how the cotton industry is set up. In any case, as CEO Jack Hunt tells Overby, “it’s just one piece of our company.”