According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which hosts an online database detailing federal ag subsidies between 1995 and 2009, about $4.3 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found its way into the pockets of Idaho state legislators. Subsidies come in a variety of forms, including money for commodities when prices drop below federally-mandated levels, direct payments, and disaster recovery funds.

A number of those receiving federal dollars have voted to push back on the federal government in years past or ran on a limited government ticket in 2010. Those lawmakers contacted had a common explanation – the federal government is very involved in agricultural production and pricing. They would prefer it to be otherwise, but market realities dictate that the payments are part of their farming and ranching operations.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, qualifies as one who ran on the limited government platform but who has also benefited from federal money.

Nuxoll didn’t directly accept subsidies, but her husband, Felix, did to the tune of $214,364 between 1995 and 2009. Nuxoll’s campaign website speaks of limited government and balanced federal budgets.

In an interview with Friday, Nuxoll explained that government involvement has essentially forced her husband to take the money, though she noted that they made it nearly 10 years in the farming business without subsidies when they started their operation.

Nuxoll takes a global view on food production and the subsidies.  “We are producing food for the world, to help feed everybody,” she explained.  “We are doing a benefit for the common good of the people.”

Even though she has benefitted from the money in the past, Nuxoll feels that programs should be cut back, but not eliminated completely.  “We would like to see the government out of farming, to an extent,” she explained, adding that some subsidies might still be necessary to assure food production in a global marketplace.  “I think government has to be involved somehow, but to a lesser extent.”

Another lawmaker quick to push back on the feds is Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who accepted a smaller amount than Nuxoll, $26,714 between 2001 and 2007, according to EWG. He told that the money came from a federal conservation program that enticed farmers not to farm, but rather to plant different types of grass on the land.

He says he has never been a farmer and that the money came because he owns land in Montana, which his brother manages.  “The choice to put the land in the Conservation Reserve Program was not my choice,” said Vick.

In the House, the taking of federal money starts close to the top.  House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, has taken in $163,502 in federal dollars.

Moyle said that as long as the money is there for the taking, he might as well take advantage of it.  “If they’re not giving it to me, they’re going to give it to my neighbor,” Moyle explained. “I really wouldn’t care if they did away with all the subsidies. It’s not that much.”

Rep. John Vander Woude, a Republican dairy farmer from Nampa, has received $86,691 in subsidies, but feels that his subsidies are warranted because his business is conducted around the whims of the federal government and its ever-changing rules on commodity prices.

He explained that federal price controls can sometimes cause farmers and ranchers to take losses on products and that the subsidies help recoup losses. “The government is heavily involved in setting the price of products,” said Vander Woude. “I wish they would get out of the way.”

The money, he said, is to help offset losses caused by government manipulation of commodity markets. Because of the manipulation, Vander Woude explained, he took a $600,000 loss in his operation a few years back and received federal money for doing so.  “It’s not something that makes me profitable, but it something that helps offset losses I’ve taken,” he stated.

Another large recipient of federal ag money is Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs.  Andrus, the chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, holds a 50 percent ownership share in Andrus Suffolks, a recipient of $231,724 in federal dollars in past years.

Andrus, like Vander Woude, says that federal interference in the commodity markets has forced everyone to take the money.  “The thing of it is that if you are in farming and ranching and you are not taking the money, you are at a great disadvantage,” he explained.

And, also like Vander Woude, Andrus says he wishes the federal government would stay out of the way.  “My preference would be not to have those programs,” Andrus said.

His subsidies, he explained, came from disaster recovery payments as well as cost-share programs promoting conservation efforts.

On the campaign website of freshman Rep. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, he expresses concern about government spending.  “There is increasing unrest among citizens about federal spending and programs that unfairly obligate and burden Idahoans,” says the site.  Yet Guthrie has taken $96,025 in federal money since 1999.

He says the money came from federal money allocated to rehabilitate the Marsh Creek area in eastern Idaho and that the money benefited the local economy.  “If the money hadn’t been used here in Marsh Valley, it would have been used somewhere else,” Guthrie said.

But what about his message about federal spending on his website?  He says he didn’t make the laws governing the federal dollars and that he is simply a willing participant.  “It wasn’t a windfall for me,” he said.  “I view it as helping achieve the goals of a program.”

It looks as if only one Democrat has received money from USDA programs.  The late Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, is listed as receiving $170,485. His wife, Michelle Stennett, filled in for him during the 2010 legislative session as he underwent treatment for brain cancer. After his passing, she was appointed to complete his term and then was elected to fill the seat in late 2010.

The money also isn’t flowing only to the legislative branch of the state government.  While Gov. Butch Otter is not listed as having taken federal dollars, Lt. Gov. Brad Little is.  The second-in-command for Idaho has a 53.1 percent ownership interesting in Little Cattle Company, a recipient of $62,411 in subsidies.  Little also has partial ownership of Highland Livestock and Land, which took in $253,160 in federal money.

Little said that his federal money came from payments designed to prop up American wool production against heavily-subsidized foreign producers.  Little feels that transparency into subsidies is necessary because some payments make sense and entice producers to do “the right thing.” Other payments, he explained, like those for corn to be used in ethanol, just don’t make sense.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told that there is a “little hypocrisy” in Republicans continually working against partnering with the federal government on issues like roads and health care while accepting the money.  “It is, to me, hypocritical to take money from the care for the disabled and put it toward agricultural subsidies,” Rusche said, referring to Medicaid cuts in recent years.

The two largest recipients of federal ag subsidies, Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, and Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, did not return calls for comment.  Loertscher holds a 50 percent stake in H. Willow Ranch Corporation, a recipient of $282,059 in federal dollars, and a 50 percent stake in Loertscher & Loertscher, which took in $684,830 in subsidy dollars. Ronald H. Bair & Sons, an entity in which Sen. Bair holds a 25 percent ownership stake, has taken $1.292 million between 1995 and 2009.

View a full list of Idaho lawmakers receiving federal subsidies here.

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About The Author

Dustin Hurst serves as the Communication Director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He graduated from Boise State in 2009. His work has been featured by Fox News, Townhall, Public Sector Inc., the Daily Caller, Reason, Human Events, the Spokesman Review and more. He and his wonderful wife Julia have two cute kids. The family resides in Middleton.


  1. Pathetic. They can talk the talk , but they don’t walk the walk. And that’s the problem. Welfare / subsidies are only bad when someone else is getting them.

  2. Not only are these folks on welfare.You can find out all your friends and neighbors have received its real simple go to Lets see who can find the person or corporation who got the most you can bet its someone screaming and yelling about all the money spent on education and healthcare.

  3. Parasite Lawmakers

    Thank you Idaho Reporter for publicizing this information. You would do the taxpayers (the ones who pay these Trough Feeding Parasites) a great favor if you would report how much FARM WELFARE is received by the spouses, siblings and children of IDHAOs lawmaker hypocrites. Also be sure to follow the manure trail of their LLC’s, Corporations & Partnerships.

    After they max out what they can steal under one entity, they form another business (name) for the purpose of milking the system for more of your Federal tax dollars.

    IE: Our Lt. Governor Little and the “Little” family name his have received over $1 million dollars in farm welfare payment. –
    Teresa Little – Soulen Livestock Co received payments totaling $970,581.12
    Jan R Little – Van Deusen Ranch Inc received payments totaling $201,196.85
    Andrew Little – A L Cattle Inc received payments totaling $169,728.31
    Brad Little – Highland Livestock & Land Inc received payments totaling $196,139.81
    David Little – Little Cattle Co received payments totaling $55,291.02
    James A Little – Haw Creek Ranch Inc received payments totaling $34,586.88
    Helen Little received payments totaling $610,265 from 1995 through 2009
    The List goes on……..

    And you forgot to mention:
    Thomas F. Loertscher (R) – Loertscher & Loertscher Ptr received payments totaling $684,830
    Dell Raybould (R) – Raybould Brothers Farms LLC received payments totaling $782,278
    John A. Stevenson (R) – Stevenson & Sons LLC received payments totaling $833,701
    Pat Takasugi (R) – Patrick A Takasugi received payments totaling $178,547
    Steve Bair (R) – Ronald H Bair & Sons received payments totaling $1,292,326
    Tim Corder (R) – Tim L Corder received payments totaling $390,176

    It is no secret why they all voted to pass the RIGHT TO POLLUTE law & the revised law to protect CAFOs from lawsuits – HB 210 and HB 269

    • Actually, I did include many of the lawmakers on the spreadsheet linked below.

      As for Rep. Dell Raybould, he was not included because while his name is in fact attached to that farming operation, he has no ownership stake in it, as is shown here.

  4. Sorry folks, we’ve gone over the edge. There is no return to a decent civilized brotherly way of life. The caste system has finally taken over and you’re either a “have” or “have not”. Unfortunately 99% of us are the “nots”. Every day, one story after another we get kicked in the butt and give a resounding may I have another one, please. We fall for it every time. I’m gonna just go out and sit on the back of the turnip truck so’s them important folk can drive by and laugh at me smore.

  5. I noticed a common theme of those that reponded is they all made themselves out to be be victims while accepting these payments instead of the “welfare queens” they really are.

  6. Good Article. If federal influence in agriculture justifies farm subsidies what about federal influence in health care and education?

  7. Nice work, Dustin. I don’t know how the full breadth of ag subsidies go, but I do know that some, at least, have a valid purpose and involve a useful exchange of value. The example of putting land in the Conservation Reserve Program is one such case.

    Recipients aren’t obligated to justify their business practices to the general public, whether or not they’re legislators, but voters certainly have an interest in asking the questions, and encouraging legislators to explain themselves, especially if their political positions are at odds with their business. Ms. Nuxoll, for example doesn’t come across real well. “Forced” to take the money, hmm.

  8. I have never understood why it is OK to have minimum wages but not ok to have minimum prices paid for crops.

  9. Laurynda Williams

    Thanks for shining a light on this problem. The ag subsidies are part of the big business that farming has morphed into. I am not reluctant to echo Rep. Rushce when he uses the word “hypocrites”. You either want all the fed monies and “interference” to stop or you do not. I am distressed that the majority party thinks it is acceptable to buck the feds on Medicaid and healthcare issues that benefit our neediest citizens. Yet, they are willing to take the money themselves from the federal government because it is just there. What about taking an ideological stand and tightening their belts? (No offense to my family which is full of farmers and ranchers. They work hard and do a tremendous job, keeping up with INS regulations, OSHA laws and EPA regulations. Many of the wives are teachers so that their kids can have health insurance.)

  10. It sounds like a serious conflict of interest. No law maker/politician should benefit from things that he or his colleagues vote on.

    This includes subsidies, their own raises, health care that they aren’t on, or social security which they don’t need because they have their own. I know that there is a difference between local law and federal law-makers but seriously, this is just another example of the general public getting taxed to death for the benefit of a few.

  11. Sheryl Nuxoll, she’s the one who claims to support a culture of life but actually carries a concealed weapon!

    Todays word is HYPOCRITE: : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings (Merriam-Webster).

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