WTOL Special Report: Cash Crop - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

WTOL Special Report: Cash Crop

WOOD COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) -

It sounds like a bad joke: Millions of tax dollars going into the pockets of successful business people in our area. But it sounds even worse because many of the people who get the money say they don't even need it.

It's a question we all want answered: Where does our tax money go?

"It doesn't make sense at the moment. There's no question," said Wood County farmer Paul Herringshaw.

Herringshaw is talking about the money he gets from the government. He has lived and farmed in Wood County for decades and received about $500,000 from the government since 1995.

"It is hard for me as a producer to look to a taxpayer and say, ‘You should give me a subsidy,'" said Herringshaw.

Levis Commons, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green State University might get the attention, but in fact, Wood County is one of the top farming areas in the state.

WTOL obtained a list of all the farmers in Wood County who receive payments from the federal government and found it's a significant amount of money.

Wood County Federal Farm Subsidies

Wood County farmers have received more than $161 million from taxpayers since 1995.

Here's a breakdown of the tax break savings given to Wood County farmers by the state:



2008 2,876 $10,517,000
2009 2,946 $10,584,000
2010 2,954 $10,623,000
2011 2,922 $8,514,000
2012 2,854 $8,696,000

Wood County Farms State Tax Breaks

The government gives money - called subsidies - to industries it feels serve the public interest. Farm subsidies started in the 1930s. The goal since the beginning was to keep farmers in business, because the country needs them to produce food.

Herringshaw says back in the 1980s, subsidies were critical because farmers struggled to stay in business. Today, the fields seem paved with green.

"The last five to seven years have probably been some of the best years we've ever had in agriculture," said Herringshaw.

View a list of the top 10 applicants with the most Current Agriculture Use Value savings for tax years 2008 through 2012.

Some of the subsidies do go towards crop insurance, which protects farmers in case of flood or drought. But most of the money is used as direct payments to farmers, with the end result of the rich getting richer.

Find more information on all the farm subsidies Wood County receives from the federal government.

Herringshaw worries farmers will get a bad reputation for continuing to receive money they don't need, while so many communities struggle to fund some of the basics.

"It's a risk that I'm concerned about because it makes no sense to me why we're getting these direct payments when we're all having one of the best years we've ever had," explained Herringshaw.

So why do farmers still get these payments from the government?

"They've just - for lack of a better term - kicked the can down the road. That's what's been going on. You kind of see, the can's being kicked farther down the road," said Jonathan Haines, executive director of the farm service agency in Wood County.

When Haines says "they," he is referring to politicians in Washington, D.C. There has been talk the last few years about ending the payments, but so far there has been no action.

"Until somebody makes a decision and says, ‘Let's do away with the direct payments.' It's still there," explained Haines.

You might think farmers should simply refuse to take the money, but that would be bad for business.

"Who in his right mind would leave dollars sitting on the table that they say legally is yours?" asked Herringshaw.

Find out how much other counties in Ohio are receiving in subsidies.

Ohio Counties With Most Federal Farm Subsidies

Herringshaw wonders if the government will eventually get things right, which is the same reaction many taxpayers have.

Is there anything upset taxpayers can do?

"I don't know. I guess talk to your congressman. Get them to do something. I can't really say talk to your congressman, but that's where it's got to start," suggested Haines.

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