Friday, December 04, 2015

Ranchers denied the drought while collecting drought subsidies

It was an anti-government rebellion in the Nevada sagebrush – with hefty taxpayer subsidies for the rebels. In June, tough-talking ranchers in remote Battle Mountain, Nevada, defied the federal government, herding cattle onto public rangeland that had been closed to grazing to protect it during the West’s scorching drought. That act of defiance capped two years of protest against grazing restrictions imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which manages thousands of square miles of arid federal land in Nevada. In the end, the federal government backed down from the confrontation in Battle Mountain. The BLM canceled the drought closures and opened the range, just as the cattlemen wanted. By denying the severity of the drought – and by claiming that “rogue” federal bureaucrats threatened them with economic ruin – the ranchers won the day. But even as the conflict played out, some of these same ranchers were collecting drought subsidies from the federal government. On one hand, they denied the drought. On the other hand, they embraced it. According to records obtained by Reveal, two ranching families at the center of the Battle Mountain protests received $2.2 million from a federal drought disaster relief program. Dan Filippini, the protest leader who turned hundreds of cattle loose on the closed range, was paid $338,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program in 2014, records show. Another $750,000 federal payout went to a trust and corporation associated with the Filippini family, which long has been active in ranching in Nevada. Meanwhile, significant payments also went to the family of Battle Mountain cattleman Peter Tomera, who with his wife and sons rode on the Grass March Cowboy Express, a 2014 horseback ride to Washington, D.C., to protest the government drought restrictions. The records show that the government paid $250,000 to a Tomera family trust and another $360,000 to a family corporation. An additional $540,000 was paid to other members of the extended Tomera family and to a related corporation, records show. The subsidy program compensates ranchers who claim financial losses because a drought disaster has driven up the cost of feed for livestock...more

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