Farm Bill & News Hub

Pork | What you need to know

Connie Spence
April 20, 2021

In 2020, the USDA directed $1.2 billion to hog farmers through direct payments, subsidies, and bailouts.

Meanwhile, mushrooms, a popular replacement for pork in recipes like carnitas, were subsidized to the tune of just $7.5 million.1 That means for every $1 that mushroom growers received, pig farmers received over $160.

The U.S. is the third largest pork producer in the world.2 with revenues exceeding $23 billion per year.3

Furthermore, the U.S is also the third largest mushroom producer at about $1.15 billion per year.4

If subsidy allocations correlated with market size, mushroom producers should have received eight times more subsidies and bailouts in 2020.

Comparisons by Weight & Calories

Thank you to redditor u/RanvierHFX for contributing a comparison subsidies to mushrooms vs pork by weight in a comment to our reddit post on r/sustainability on the topic. They found that subsidies paid out 19.2 times higher per pound to pork than to mushrooms.

  • $0.1648 per pound pork (Source).
  • $0.0086 per pound mushrooms (Source).

u/RanvierHFX further noted that “Looking at, it looks like cremini mushrooms have 96.8 calories per pound, while ground pork has 1347.6 calories per pound.” That works out to

  • Pork: $0.122 per 1000 calories.
  • Mushrooms: $0.089 per 1000 calories.

By just about every measure, subsidies disproportionately favor pork production over mushroom production. And that’s too bad, because as redditor u/PastaBarb noted in a similar discussion over on r/PlantBased4ThePlanet,

“I’d rather have a mushroom farm upwind from me than a pig farm.”

Indeed, it’s not just the bad smells from pig farms that cause problems in the wider communities and to public health.


According to the CDC, Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) pollute the water and air, and disproportionately affect the health and property values of marginalized communities that happen to be in the vicinity.5

Vast open air lagoons of hog feces produce air pollutants that adversely effect human health. Unfortunately, farmers spray excess feces into the air which can land on nearby houses. Check out the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network6 and the Murphy Brown (Smithfield) cases7 to learn more about the devastating impacts these operations have on their neighbors.

Emerging and Re-emerging Swine Viruses8,9

Zoonotic Diseases

“Swine flu viruses do not normally infect people; however, sporadic human infections with these viruses have occurred. Human infections with H1N1v, H3N2v and H1N2v viruses have been detected in the United States. Spread between pigs and people is thought to happen mainly when an infected pig (or human) coughs or sneezes and droplets with influenza virus in them spread through the air.”

U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention10

The Numbers

$1.2 billion in taxpayer pork subsidies & bailouts

Mushrooms: $7.5 million

  • CFAP 1: $7,510,000 (as of Dec 31, 2020)17
  • CFAP 2: $018
  • MFP: $0. The USDA removed mushrooms from the list of eligible specialty crops in 2019. See page 4 of the GAO report. We assume this policy carried forward to 2020. For reference, total Market Facilitation Program payments through Dec 21, 2020 were $14.5billion, with 22.77% or $331M going to specialty crops.19 MFP payments in 2020 totaled
  • Conservation Programs: Probably zero to very little. It’s impossible to determine from NCRS reports whether mushroom growers received any conservation funding. Considering that mushrooms are eminently sustainable foods to grow, it’s entirely possible that no conservation funds went to mushroom farmers.

AFA calls on the USDA and Congress to help farmers who want to transition into growing eco-friendly crops instead.


  6. NCEJN-Video-YouTube
  8. Emerging and Re-emerging Swine Viruses, XJ Meng, Virginia Tech
  10. 4 Variant Virus Infections Linked to Pig Exposures (CDC)
  11. (as of Dec 31, 2020)
  12. (as of Dec 31, 2020)
  13. (GAO Reported 2% of MFP payments went to hog producers in 2019. $72.76 million is 2% of $3.7 billion, the total 2020 MFP direct payments)
  14. $6.2 billion went to commodity crop producers in 2020 via the ARC and PLC commodity programs.Livestock feed is a top-end market for the most highly subsidized crops like corn and soy. $100 million could be attributed to pork as a conservative estimate.
  15. $6.3 billion in taxpayer money subsidized private, for-profit insurance companies to offer crop insurance to predominantly animal feed producers. Like commodity programs, we think at least $100 million constituted indirect subsidies to pork producers. We didn’t add this estimate to our top line number as it’s simply an educated guess at this point.
  16. Statutory rules require that some conservation programs to award at least half of all grants to livestock producers, ( ), but acreage and grant reports from NRCS lack adequate data to connect grants to specific industries In 2020, Conservation programs paid out $3.9 billion. Based on EQIP Data, and CSP Data, it’s hard to tell who got what.

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