Two weeks ago, frequent writer Jerry Richardson continued his public advice to state Rep. Ryan Quarles in this newspaper. He stated that state Rep. Quarles was fed and clothed in childhood by the American taxpayers through “huge farm subsidies” received by his parents. He then indicted other local public officials as well as non-public parties, including Ryan’s parents, as receiving “huge farm subsidies” deemed as Quarlescare.
The entire article was based on quoting U.S. Department of Agriculture payment information gleaned from EWG.org as equal and parallel to federal taxpayer-funded programs such as Social Security and Medicare. It is an astonishingly sad event that someone who taught in public education can be so ignorant as to these two totally different programs. It also diminishes our local newspaper to allow this misinformation to be printed as factual.
The true distinctions between farm payments in Scott County and entitlement programs are broader than the Mississippi River. EWG.org reports payments to individuals without much, if any, detail as to the origin. The USDA is the fiduciary agent for many programs, including food stamps. The monies referred to by Mr. Richardson are almost entirely the result of contract payments between Scott County farmers and USDA.
In 2004 Congress condemned our tobacco quota system. It was a true property taking no different than land condemned to build highways. All Scott County tobacco growers and quota owners were immediately affected for the rest of our lives. Over $50 million was provided to our Scott County tobacco people for this condemnation process — all based on your level of poundage ownership. An ongoing 10-year payment schedule was established — with no interest included — and we have three remaining years.
Tobacco manufacturing companies were assessed these same dollars to pay for this condemnation. Nary one cent of taxpayer money is involved. I was heavily invested in tobacco production — and still am today — so my payments reflect my involvement.
Other monies listed in EWG.org are the contracts for providing food security and conservation practices that require work by the receiving farm to benefit the public. No work completed, no payment made.
This same procedure is followed by our local Soil Conservation District to increase the water quality in Scott County. Various projects — a true contract — only reimburse farms for completed work — usually only at a 50 percent level. No work completed, no payment.
Not all farms are equal in size or practices, so various levels of payment are commonplace.
Now, the facts on Medicare and Social Security programs. These are truly taxpayer-funded social entitlement programs with no expectations from the beneficiaries, unlike farm programs. There are some groups of employees such as federal employees, most public school teachers, and other minor groups that do not pay into these funds, thus not helping to support the current beneficiaries as these programs are designed to do. Recipients of farm payments paid Social Security and Medicare taxes on the funds Mr. Richardson referred to in his diatribe. There is absolutely no similarity between farm payments and social entitlement programs. What I can assure Scott County taxpayers is that state Rep. Ryan Quarles was not raised in the lap of luxury Mr. Richardson suggests on the taxpayers’ dime. He was given — more than he probably wished — the opportunity to work in my tobacco, corn and hay fields with pay at the farm rate along with the hundreds of other local residents I have employed in the past 30 years while farming in Scott County — and his mother and I proudly think that work contributed to his success today.
Roger Quarles is a Scott County farmer and the father of Ryan Quarles, the state representative for District 62.