Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Letter to the Editor: Rep. Shuster should check on the 'real facts'

on April 11, 2014 10:20 AM

Several weeks ago my wife and I watched an ad on TV that claimed Art Halvorson (running against Bill Shuster) had received $500,000 in taxpayer subsidies from farms in Iowa and Bedford. Since my wife has been employed by the Farm Service Agency for 26 years, she was interested because she knows there are limitations on the amount of subsidies that can be earned by individuals.

On March 21, we attended a dinner at a local church and met Mr. Halvorson. My wife promptly asked how he had earned that amount of subsidies. He explained to us that the $500,000 subsidies (cumulative amounts from 1995 through 2012) were on a farm near his that is owned and were earned by others. The money he earned on the farm in Bedford County was for a CREP Contract (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) that had already been initiated on the farm before he purchased it. He agreed to continue the contract to avoid paying back the money earned by the previous owner and he had donated his earnings. As for the ethanol subsidies, Mr. Halvorson cash-rents the farm in Iowa to a producer who grows and markets the corn. (Ethanol subsidies go to the ethanol plants to pay higher prices for corn.)

We did what Shuster’s mailings urged us to do; we went to www.hypocritehalvorson .com to get “all the facts.” These are the real facts. The documents show the “over $500,000 in taxpayer subsidies” were actually paid to two other persons. Mr. Halvorson’s name does not appear anywhere on those documents. The CREP contracts that supposedly show Mr. Halvorson “signing up for the subsidies” actually show that Mr. Halvorson was continuing a contract that was already in place because they were signed in 2009 and ended in 2011 and 2012. Contracts in the CREP program are never initiated for less than 10 years. CREP payments are not even subsidies, but rent paid by the USDA for conservation purposes. CREP contracts can be very expensive to buy out and it makes sense to let the land in the contract until the original expiration date to avoid paying back all earnings.

Mr. Shuster, we thought you were better than this. Wouldn’t it have been better to engage in an honest dialogue about the merits of the farm programs than this campaign of character assassination?

You should have had someone check the “real facts.”

John A Vilcek

Blairsville

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