Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Government trough

I recieved a certified letter from my friends at the Department of ecology today, and it had all of the usual stuff in it.

But I thought I'd comment about the "financial assistance" that was mentioned.  I don't know what it's like in other parts of the country, but around here, the soil conservation districts really don't have a job.  For the most populated counties, there isn't much farming left; certainly far fewer farms in King and Snohomish county than at any time in history, and fewer still every year.  

But they're charged with conserving the soil, and they are paid for with property taxes levied on all landowners.  They are really pretty motivated to use the money that they get, millions of dollars, because it's a little  embarrassing to have a big bank balance grow, seeing as how we're all told that the government is broke all the time.  But the conservation districts aren't.  

Some of the money offered in this letter is federal.  I can lease my land to the government for more than I can likely make on crops if I choose to grow them; I think that I get $400/acre/year or so.  The theory is that it's all for the salmon, or the marbeled murrelet, or some other critter, but there's really no accountability.  I'd get a lease payment and basically there's no measuring whether or not we get more salmon or murrelets or whatever.  

Anytime someone is handing out free money it's a pretty popular program.  You see, I could just go and find the worst, swampy areas of my farm, and I'd get a check for $5,000 a year or so... for doing nothing.  I'd show up on the list of farms that were "subsidized"  (the lease payments show up as farm subsidies) and I could go my merry way.  This is a BIG business in this area.  We've spent $560,000,000.00 (Five Hundred and Sixty Million Dollars) on this sort of stuff, and we are all encouraged by every agency to jump into the government trough.  Here the department of ecology is threatening me with enforcement action, but they'd go away if I enrolled in this free-money program.  It's a weird extortion racket -- the mafia would be a lot more popular if they acted like these guys do.  

 Mafia:  "so, nice store you got here.  Be a shame if it burned down"
 Store owner:  "uh, yes.  What can I do for you?"  
 Mafia:  "here's $400.  as long as you take that money, we'll stay out of your store"
 Store owner: "ok!  deal!" 

No accountability.  I don't have to do a darned thing but cash the check.  Pretty sweet deal, huh?  

But it doesn't end there.   One of my farmer friends was showing me his nice, new concrete slab he got poured.  "Yea, all i had to do was claim it was for water quality, and BOOM!  I had a slab!".  It was a beauty, too.  6" thick, level, hundreds of square feet...  concrete is pretty nice stuff on a farm, and free concrete; such a deal!
high tunnel (mine, but same sort of structure)

Another farmer friend was crowing about the high-tunnels that the conservation district had purchased for him, or subsidized; I don't know if they'd be scandalized to know that he was growing Marijuana in them now; he's happy with his government-subsidized cash crop, but he says "Bruce, it was so easy...  I just fill out the forms and BOOM!  free high tunnels!"

So I'm at a meeting of the Snohomish County Agricultural Advisory board, and just before the topic I was there for was a presentation by a consultant, who was talking about the fifty million dollar (50,000,000.00) funding they'd received for some salmon project.   So I asked him.  For that fifty million dollars, how many more salmon will we have?  "oh.. we don't know.  But we are accountable!  "
So if your project doesn't produce even 1 more salmon, will you lose your funding?  
"oh no.  We're locked in"
One of the board members said, afterwards, that this particular funding was great because local farmers got part of the money.  and I said what I thought at the time:  You mean you got a place at the trough.

I'm a pig farmer.  I understand a place at the trough, and some days it seems like everyone is lining up.  As long as I get my meal, I don't care what goes on with the rest of the money.  Head down. 

Nom Nom Hom!

So I've got a question for you guys.  Would you take the money?  


off grid mama said...

No. I prefer the government stay out of my affairs and I'd rather not give them the keys to my front gate. Your Mafia description washumorous but what happena when they call in their favor.

Rich said...

I understand the value of wildlife and protecting fisheries, etc. (I actually manage the farm for the benefit of wildlife like deer, turkey, and quail along with the cattle), but why is there such a large effort to protect salmon at all costs in the PNW?

Five years ago, I would have told you that I would never accept any grant money from the government, because I believed that the excessive level of government spending was both unsustainable and destructive to the economy. I also naively believed that making some sort of symbolic stand by refusing to consider accepting grant money might have made some sort of difference in curbing that sort of excessive spending.

Today, I'm not so sure that I would turn down any grant money. I believe even stronger that the current level of spending is wasteful, unsustainable, and utterly destructive, but now I'm a little more cynical about what I can do to stop it.

Since everybody in government seems determined to spend us into oblivion regardless of what I do or think, then I'd think long and hard about taking the money to offset all the damage they are doing to my business.

I'd hate taking the money and my loyalty wouldn't be bought with their grant money bribes, but I'd hold my nose and consider it.

Across The Creek Farm said...


Across The Creek Farm said...


Anonymous said...

I was getting $1000 per year to be enrolled in the farm program with nothing required and no accountability. I decided to not enroll this year out of principle, because I don't support the farm program as it stands.

Cody Jarrett said...

It's something I struggle with, occasionally. Mostly I just don't think about it so I don't know what programs are available.

Friends of mine have the attitude where 'someone's gonna get it, why not me'...and that does make some sense I guess.

When I bought my property one of the things I was offered was a forestry plan. I was mildly interested but was far too busy with other things and told them I didn't want to talk about it for at least a year.
Suddenly, I get a notice from whatever federal program it was that "we're terribly sorry but your grant application has been denied, try again next year". I went bugshit, starting with the person's name on the letter. She directed me to the state office, they directed me to the local office. All along the way I kept telling them 'I didn't apply for anything, dammit!'.

Turns out, some intern turned full time worker at the local (county) level had decided, supposedly on her own, to apply for me. Yes. An intern turned full time employee at the county ag office decided to take it upon herself to fill out and submit a federal grant application in my name.


Because the more grants that originate from their office, the bigger their pot gets.

I was pissed. Heh. Still am, just writing about it. LOL.


Adam Stevens said...

Nope. I really don't think I would. I would not want to get into a situation where I'd be sunk without their help. We need to fire the officials that don't apply rational thought as they try to tell other folks what to do with their land (farmers) or money (taxpayers). France is looking better all the time. Here I feel like I've created the problem we have (by voting. for anyone), there, well, I'd just be dealing with whatever they had come up with.