San Luis Obispo farm subsidy leaders
June 21, 2011
The Republican-dominated House voted against cutting farm subsidies for the wealthy while agreeing to slash domestic and international food aid on Thursday.
The bill to cut Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration spending by 13 percent for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, raised concerns that the farm subsidy program in some cases is akin to welfare for the wealthy.
Landowners are restricted from receiving farm subsidies if they make more than $1.25 million per year individually. The House rejected a bill to tighten the eligibility requirements to $250,000 a year in adjusted gross income by a vote of 228-186.
Proponents of the bill, slated to cut $167 million from the $20 billion spent per year on farm subsidies, argued someone who makes $250,000 doesn’t need farm subsidies.
Farm subsidies date back to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. In order to raise the price of food and livestock so that farmers could continue farming, farmers let parts of their fields go fallow and killed off some of their livestock.
Currently, direct payment subsidies are given without regard to the financial needs of the recipients or the condition of the farm economy.
Even so, farm subsidies protect farmers from losing their businesses during catastrophes.
In California, only 9.2 percent of farmers and ranchers collect farm subsidies. Of those, 10 percent are paid 68 percent of subsidy monies.
In San Luis Obispo County, 364 ranch and farm owners received farm subsides from $210,710 to $3 in 2009. The lower 80 percent of recipients over the past 15 years receive an average of $718 per year.
CalCoastNews is providing some of the top subsidy earners in San Luis Obispo County in 2009 and over the past 15 years as reported on the Farm Subsidy Data Base report.
Over the past 15 years, the White Ranch Company in Shandon received $3.3 million in subsidy payments. Next in line, Lacey Livestock, was paid approximately $1.9 million in subsides.
The top earners in 2009 include Robert and Diane Morrison of Santa Margarita with $168,856 in government subsidy payments, Maria and Servando Eguiluz of Arroyo Grande received $103,062, Michael Strouss of Paso Robles received $89,600, Santa Margarita Ranch LLC was paid $66,334, Ron and Jen Skinner of Santa Margarita were paid $65,523 and Wolff Vineyards LLC was paid $58,729, according to a Farm Subsidy Data Base report.
In San Luis Obispo County, several large families own numerous properties that receive yearly payments for not growing crops or running cattle. Some opponents of subsides contend generations of families regularly receive subsidies while only growing or ranching periodically in order to keep up on subsidy requirements.
The top subsidy payee in the county is the LY7 Company in Santa Margarita at $210,710 in 2009. According to the report the LY7 Company is owned by nine members of the Twisselman family and several other shareholders.
In total, 22 members of the Twisselman family own about a dozen local properties for which they receive subsidies.
In a cultural resources assessment done by the California Valley Solar Ranch Project, Darrell Twisselman explains that periodically he grows crops so that he can maintain requirements to continue receiving farm subsidy payments.
“As irrigated valley land to the east started farming more grain, the price fell, and farming tapered off in the Carrizo Plain in the 1960s,” Twisselman says in the assessment. “Various government programs would pay the farmers to not plant, and much of the land went back to grazing with periodic crops to maintain the ‘farming’ use for subsidy purposes.”
Fifteen members of the Kuhnle family own several San Luis Obispo County properties they get paid not to grow including Kuhnle and Sons at $128,795, KW Ranch at $70,572 and Kuhnle Property Trust for $55,854, the report says.
Meanwhile, the House voted 217-203 to balance the budget by making $868 million in cuts to the Woman, Infant and Children program which provides food aid and educational support to low-income mothers and their children.
Additionally, the spending bill cuts $450 million from international emergency aid and food assistance programs.