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Dead Farmers Get Millions From Tax Dollars

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It’s no secret that many times the federal government can spend your tax dollars in ways that might leave you scratching your head or even make you angry.

But wait until you hear what I-Team Investigator Stephen Stock dug up and who is getting your money now.

William Roderick Kent was 87-years-old when he died. He now rests in a mausoleum at Woodlawn Park Cemetery North along Miami’s 8th Street.

Kent lived in a nice home in Coconut Grove. He owned property throughout South Florida, including a place in multi-story building in Coral Gables. So why — even two years after his death — is William R. Kent getting money from the government?

Records show that William R. Kent continued to be paid US federal farm bill aid. Exactly, $43,930.49 in farm aid to be precise, 2-years after he was buried in the mausoleum at Woodlawn Park North.

“It just shows you how broken this system of farm subsidies is,” said Richard Wiles, of the Environmental Working Group.

Wiles is a co-founder of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) a non-profit watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.

You can find EWG’s website by clicking here.

“You don’t have to farm to get farm subsidies,” said Wiles, who is currently the Senior Vice President for Policy and Communications at EWG. “You don’t have to have ever farmed to get farm subsidies. You don’t even have to be alive to get farm subsidies.”

Working with help from the Environmental Working Group’s database experts, the CBS4 I-Team matched Federal Farm Bill recipients with people, birth dates, addresses and social security numbers found on the Social Security Administration’s death index.

The I-Team discovered at least 234 people in South Florida who are deceased. They are on the farm aid’s list, even though they are dead. To view the complete list, click here.

Those people still received your tax dollars in the form of farm aid. The I-Team’s research shows the 234 people received a total of $9,506,255.

You can search the list of deceased people whose name matches people getting farm aid in our exclusive searchable database by clicking here.

“I’m not surprised at all that you found that those numbers, hundreds of farmers who have been dead five, seven, or even eight years are still receiving checks from the government,” said Wiles. “It’s just the way agriculture is today. There’s just billions and billions of dollars being spent to farmers every year and almost no accountability for where the money goes.”

US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart agreed with Wiles. “I wish I could tell you help was on the way,” the Republican from South Florida said.

Diaz-Balart, who represents parts of west Miami-Dade County, says he wants accountability too.

Diaz-Balart has been one of the most vocal critics in Congress about the way the Farm Bill is structured and farm aid is distributed.

“Not only are we funding dead people; we’re funding people that are not farmers,” Diaz-Balart said.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked Diaz-Balart, “They’re dead, how can this be?”

“Welcome to the way the federal government does business,” replied Diaz-Balart.

The I-Team’s investigation uncovered as many as 2,393 dead people statewide in Florida who listed as receiving $88,871,593 in federal tax dollars in the form of US Department of Agriculture farm aid.

“(A year ago) we were able to put language in the farm bill to hopefully tighten that (loophole that enables dead people to get farm aid) up. And you know what’s happened, we’re still waiting for the rule process to take place,” Diaz-Balart said.

In fact, the old rules governing the US Department of Agriculture’s farm aid distribution actually allow dead farmers and their heirs to get farm aid for up to two years after the farmer dies.

Even after taking those old rules into account, the I-Team uncovered 1,399 statewide in Florida who have been dead three years or more and yet who received $55,051,857 of federal tax dollars in farm aid. Some of those dead farm aid recipients have been deceased as long as 8 years and still got federal money.

You can search the list of deceased people whose name matches people getting farm aid in our exclusive searchable database by clicking here.

“It’s ridiculous!” said Congressman Ron Klein.

Klein represents Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Congress.

“The federal government is very large so what!” said Klein.

A Democrat, Klein sides with his South Florida Republican colleague Mario Diaz-Balart, on the need for immediate change in the way farm aid is distributed.

“There needs to be follow up, there needs to be oversight of these kinds of problems so that we don’t have an embarrassing situation like that,” Klein said. “It’s unacceptable.”

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart said that partially because of the I-Team’s investigation into the Farm Bill, Congress has finally tried to step in and fix the problem.

“Congress approved some language which I have to give you a lot of credit because you highlighted this from the beginning,” Diaz-Balart told I-Team investigator Stephen Stock.

“It’s been a year (since those rules were passed by Congress) and rules not been made (into policy at the USDA) yet,” said Diaz-Balart.

That’s right, a year after Congress passed rules designed to stop the paying farm aid to dead people and people who don’t actually farm, those have yet to be “promulgated,” in other words, implemented by the US Department of Agriculture.

“It is completely outrageous that dead farmers continue to get money,”  EWG’s Richard Wiles said. “Can you imagine if it were dead welfare recipients? The Congress would be up in arms!”

What angers critics the most–despite Congress’ action, despite the fact Congress’ General Accountability Office (the GAO) in a 2007 report to Congress, found 172 thousand dead people nationwide who got 1.1 BILLION dollars in Farm Aid–the US Department of Agriculture has yet to change those rules. That means that to this day thousands of dead people still get your tax dollars in the form of farm aid.

You can see a copy of the GAO’s report on dead people receiving farm aid by clicking here.

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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