San Luis Obispo farm subsidy leaders

June 21, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

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.


34 Comments

  1. racket says:

    Thinking aloud:

    I wonder if you subtract the $168,856 in subsidies from the taxes the Morrisons paid in 2009 whether the total their total tax bill we greater than, equal to, or less than, mine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Spirit Filled says:

    Well somebody has to make the $868 million in cuts to the Woman, Infant and Children program. This is nothing new. Anyone that takes aid from women and children best not show their faces. I wonder how they will be judged by God? Not much of a question as far as I am concerned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • danika says:

      I don’t think God judges based on money received or paid.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

      • Spirit Filled says:

        Money is what keeps their programs afloat. Needed programs. Take things from children that are needed is depriving them. To me that is a good reason to judge them negatively. It’s the taking away of the programs and aid thats bad.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      • Spirit Filled says:

        Would you want someone to come a long and take money from your paycheck that you were going to use for food to feed the kids? (If you have kids). Or to tear down their playgrounds, or to stop programs that are set up to help needy children? I don’t think so. God wants us to care for children and grown-ups that need help. I think he will and does judge us on how we treat our poor. We are supposed to see Jesus in every suffering person and that includes children.
        I’m really not arguing with you about God. Everyone has their own opinon and I am just expressing mine. God Bless you.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. bobfromsanluis says:

    Unfortunately the fix is the hard part; the two party system we have allowed to dominate our political landscape IS the problem and fixing that is ALMOST impossible; I say almost because it can be done, it will take a lot of effort to do so. The one “thing” that would make it easiest for a third party candidate or someone who is a registered Republican of Democrat that does not have the support of their party officials is to, unfortunately, have a ballot measure that mandates that I.R.V. (Instant Runoff Voting) be used to elect all positions on our ballots. When Dave Congalton had two members of the California Democratic Party on his program a month or so ago, I called in to ask if either of them would support IRV; neither of them thought it is a good idea, so of course it must be. Our elected representatives will fight this attempt with everything they have because it threatens the existing power structure and definitely would alter the political landscaped in Sacramento. Please read up about IRV if you are not aware of how it works and you will learn how we can elect politicians that will listen to us and respond to our concerns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • r0y says:

      I am not sure that Instant Runoff Voting is as helpful as many wish it was… if you can stay awake long enough, there all kinds of boring, technical details that show how goofy IRV can be.

      Still, there is some nice hype out there, but the logistics of it do not seem all that clear to me as a reform measure.

      Just my $0.02 worth…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • bobfromsanluis says:

        IRV can be “goofy”? Not any more “goofy” than black box voting where elections have been seemingly reversed at 11:30 at night when a “correction” of the voting results has taken place. I am so very happy that our Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified all of the electronic voting machines in California. As far as IRV goes, the problems you seem intent of finding fault with in IRV are not as pronounced as you are trying to make them out to be; follow my link and see if you have any different opinion of IRV.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

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