Correction to This Article
This Oct. 4 article about federal agriculture subsidies received by Gary H. Baise, Republican candidate for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said that his farm is in Morgan, Ill. It is in Morgan County, Ill.

Candidate In Va. Took Subsidies For Farm

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gary H. Baise, the Republican candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman, who tells audiences that he stands for "lower taxes, limited government and less spending," collected nearly $300,000 in federal subsidies for his southern Illinois farm between 1995 and 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture records show.

Baise, a Falls Church trial lawyer who charges private-sector clients $525 an hour, said yesterday that wealthy individuals such as himself should not be eligible for the payments. He acknowledged that his 700-acre corn and soybean operation in Morgan, Ill., about 30 miles west of Springfield, would have been "immensely" profitable last year even without subsidies, principally because of booming corn sales to ethanol producers.

"There's no way you can justify this for guys like me," he said. "This is what is wrong with government."

Asked why he continues to take federal subsidies, Baise said, "Because I pay so much in taxes, it's some way of getting it back."

Farm subsidy programs have long been widely denounced by Democrats and Republicans for underwriting those who don't need the help. Devised in the 1930s as a safety net for struggling farm families, the programs have evolved into a $25 billion-a-year web of direct payments, loans and price guarantees that critics call a form of corporate welfare.

A Washington Post investigation last year found that much of the money is going to large commercial farms with annual sales of $500,000 or more. The report also discovered that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion to individuals who do no farming.

In debates and candidate forums, Baise has been highly critical of Fairfax County's fiscal policies during the tenure of his opponent, Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D). Since 2001, the county's budget has increased by $1.1 billion, or 54 percent.

"We are in a spending frenzy in this county," Baise said. "If the money comes in, spend it." He vowed that if elected he would bring new rigor and scrutiny to spending decisions.

Connolly said yesterday that Baise's acceptance of farm subsidies undermines any claim he might stake as a fiscal conservative.

"This is yet another classic example of a so-called conservative Republican who wants to rein in spending except when it comes to his own handout," Connolly said. "While it may be the system, the fact that a wealthy attorney in Washington is collecting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for his soybean farm in Illinois, I think, is the height of hypocrisy."

Baise's farm, where he grew up, is operated by John Werries, whose brother Larry was a high school friend of Baise's and former Illinois director of agriculture. Baise said he makes all decisions on planting, marketing and sales, and visits five to 10 times a year. The acreage is evenly divided between corn and soybeans. Corn is taken to regional elevators and sold for animal feed or to Archer Daniels Midland for processing into ethanol, which also receives enormous federal subsidies.

Baise, who recently called himself "one of the original environmentalists," in part because of his farming roots, acknowledged that corn's high profitability as a source of biofuel creates additional environmental problems. Corn requires large amounts of fertilizer, which is washed by rain into lakes and rivers, killing aquatic life.

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