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Nevada ranks low among states for federal subsidies paid to farmers, ranchers


by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada ranks 46th among states in the total amount of federal subsidy payments to farmers and ranchers over the past 16 years, with 89 percent receiving no payments at all, according to information from the Washington, DC-based Environmental Working Group.

State farming and ranching interests received a total of $118 million in various types of subsidies from 1995 to 2010, with $42.2 million paid out for conservation subsidies and $39 million in disaster subsidies, the group is reporting on its website.

Farming subsidies totaled $27.4 million.

Nevada range cattle 2005 / Photo by Toiyabe @ Wikimedia Commons

The top Nevada recipient of farming subsidies was the Brinkerhoff Ranch Inc. out of Lovelock, with $909,349 in subsidies from 1995 to 2010. The Nevada Nile Ranch Inc., also based in Lovelock, was 2nd with $823,202 in subsidies, and the Kings River Land & Cattle Co. Inc. 3rd with $795,609 in subsidies.

The top recipients of farming subsidies in 2010 were Henry C. Vogler of Ely, with $150,231; Brinkerhoff Ranch with $40,000; and Golconda Butte Farms Inc. of Winnemucca with $40,000.

Vogler, a member of the state Board of Agriculture, runs a cattle and sheep ranch in eastern Nevada. While Vogler said he has taken advantage of the subsidy program over the years, for a lot of ranchers, it isn’t worth the time to navigate the bureaucracy.

“Probably one of the biggest reasons that fewer and fewer ranchers use it is, for whatever reason, the federal USDA farm service agency people have been almost taking an adversarial position against the ranching community, don’t ask me why,” he said.

“Anytime you qualify for a program it’s a bit like pulling teeth,” Vogler said. “You are guilty until proven innocent. They fight you tooth and nail rather than try and help you. And the comment I get from many, many producers is it’s not worth the hassle.”

But living in the driest state in the nation, Vogler said the disaster relief assistance provided through the program has helped him survive through what has been the worst drought in White Pine County on record.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, on June 23 released the latest update of its farm subsidy database after months of reviewing millions of new government records. The 2011 database tracks $222.8 billion in subsidies paid from 1995 to 2010 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The top five states over the 16 years are Texas at $24.4 billion, Iowa, $22.3 billion, Illinois, $18.6 billion, Minnesota, $15.2 billion, and Nebraska, $14.8 billion. Rhode Island was last with $18 million in subsidies.

The group has been critical of the program in its present form for supporting large agribusiness over family farmers.

“We are sending handouts to Wall Street investors and absentee landlords instead of working toward creating a safety net for working farm and ranch families,” said EWG Senior Vice-President Craig Cox. “It’s simply unjustifiable.”

Audio clips:

Subsidy recipient Henry Vogler of Ely says one reason more Nevada ranchers don’t take advantage of the program is the adversarial nature of the federal agency against the ranching community:

070111Vogler1 :28 ask me why.”

Vogler says many ranchers say the effort to seek the subsidies is not worth the hassle:

070111Vogler2 :22 worth the hassle.”

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