Editorial: Farmers at the public trough

Agriculture may be big in Rappahannock County, but it’s not Big Ag. Here we have family farms — not corporate farming or industrial-level, scaled-up agribusiness. So it goes that, although agriculture remains indeed the biggest part of the Rappahannock economy, we are only minor beneficiaries of the latest farm bill passed by Congress.

We don’t mind. For we’re not seeking handouts. Neither do we lobby nor make huge campaign donations in the expectation of a legislative payoff. But what at least some of us mind is a farm bill laden with corporate welfare just as in the past.

In the years 1995-2012, one big farm in Southside Virginia, in the same 5th congressional district as Rappahannock, received almost $1.5 million in commodity subsidies. Of which, more than $1.2 million was paid to the “farmer” simply not to grow tobacco.

In that same time period, 164 individual farmers in Rappahannock County received subsidies for livestock, corn and apples; yet the total all of them received was less than what that single Southside “tobacco farmer” got in taxpayer dollars.

The grand total in commodity subsidies for Rep. Robert Hurt’s 5th district was more than $170 million, according to the Big Washington watchdog Environmental Working Group — the second highest for any congressional district in Virginia. Moreover, the top 10 percent of the 5th district subsidy recipients garnered 86 percent of the payments!

But having to share the public trough with others, Virginia farmers ranked only 31st of all the 50 states in the taxpayer dollars received through such subsidies. And 79 percent of Virginia farmers did not collect any subsidy payments at all!

That last fact at least should make fiscally conservative Rappahannockers happy and proud.

Walter Nicklin