In 2011, the most recent figures available, over $1 million came into Harrison County through agriculture/farm subsidies.
According to Gary Carter, Harrison County Extension Agent for Agriculture, the bulk of that income is through the tobacco buyout for which there is only one year remaining on those payments.
Farm subsidies started in the 1920s when the government initiated the payments to spur farmers to grow products that could be used as food.
“They had to make sure there was going to be food for the people,” Carter said. “So, they encouraged the farmers to grow food, even if they weren’t going to make any money.”
Since then, subsidies evolved to include tobacco, which is now phasing out, wheat, corn, soybeans and other products.
Carter said the subsidies help farmers make a living off the crops they raise.
If it costs $3 a bushel to raise corn and they make $2.50 a bushel, they’re not going to stay in it very long, Carter explained.
He said that right now, farmers are seeing a return on their investments, which has likely spurred talks in Washington, D.C., to do away the all subsidy programs.
“What happens when all is not going well?” questioned Carter, adding that most people in rural communities understand that just because it’s going well for farmers today or this year, doesn’t guarantee a good yield year next year.
Then, he said, during that bad year, the farmer still has to make payments on equipment, the fuel he used, hauling his crop and even marketing it.
Aleta Botts, Agricultural Policy Outreach Director for UK College of Agriculture, said that if you subtract the tobacco buyout numbers from Harrison County’s totals, there’s not a lot of subsidy money.
“It’s surprising how little is coming in,” she said.
During the period from 1995 to 2011, Harrison County tobacco farmers received $8,393,438 in subsidies, which was nearly twice as much as its corn producers received ($4,345,761).
Harrison County’s top 10 subsidy recipients in 2011 as released online at http://farm.ewg.org/top_recips.php?fips=21097&progcode=totalfarm&yr=2011..., are:
Douglas Dunaway, $41,474;
Ricci Roland, $30,136;
A Kellar Farm, $23,679;
Jesse H. Burrier II, $18,921;
Anna Mae Ishmael, $18,921;
Nicholas Farmer, $15,299;
Chapel Mastin, $14,588;
William A. Thompson, $13,967;
Brad Marshall, $13,874; and
Wayne Courtney, $13,677.
Botts explained that there are several different subsidy programs to help farmers.
Direct payments were designed in 1996 as a way to wean farmers away from government funding by offering payments based on a formula involving the historic production on a given plot of land in 1986. This payment goes to the landowner.
The Marketing Loan Program and Counter Cyclical Payments are priced-based and help farmers when the price drops below target prices.
Average Crop Revenue Election Program (ACRE) is revenue-based, said Botts.
ACRE was created in the 2008 farm bill and brings together the risks in price and yield to provide assurance of a minimum total revenue to the farmer.
Those are just a few of the programs available to offset losses.