Sodbuster Subsidies:  Local and federal farm welfare payments from your taxes to Virginia Beach farmers

In a what has become routine,  actions, but apparently not conflict of interest, some members of the city's Agriculture Advisory Commission, which recommends who gets funds under the Agriculture Reserve Program, are well paid recipients of the program as well (see members and welfare programs below from which they are paid your tax dollars).

According to Mel Atkinson,  Rural Community Coordinator,  Agriculture Department City of Virginia Beach, the process for getting the local buyout is:

  1. Landowner makes application

  2. Agriculture Department reviews for eligibility, planning department reviews 

  3. Appraisal is completed and Agriculture Commission makes recommendation to City Manager

  4. Offer is sent from City Manager 

  5. If landowner accepts offer then it goes before council for approval

  6. Council approval means that we may appropriate the funds out of our account after legal work is done in preparation for closing 

  7. Closing - funds are used to purchase 0 coupon "T-strips" to fund the principal payment in 25 years

Ostensibly the payout of your tax dollars is to prevent encroachment of development below the green line, in theory an artificial boundary to block residential development beyond a certain point in the southern section of the city. But in fact, the anti-development line is leaking like a sieve with considerable development underway or proposed, despite the vast sums of your dollars to buy development rights of a few, select farmers in what has become known as the 'Welfare Farmers Retirement Program,' by some.

Not only do some of the members of the commission reap the benefits from the program they provide recommendations on, they also get, in some cases, huge federal subsidies from your taxes.

The Welfare Farmers can get federal subsidies, get paid by local tax dollars through the ARP, and still farm and take income from the land - a 'Triple Dip Sodbuster's Subsidy.'

Details of the program and beneficiaries are outlined below:

Members of the Virginia Beach Agriculture Advisory Commission
Former City Councilman John Baum
[Mr. Baum’s family is currently receiving $1,055,105 from the ARP]
Bonnie G. Bright

[Mr. Bright’s family is currently receiving $654,833 from the ARP and between 1996 and 2000 received another $517,146 in Federal subsidies]
John W. Cromwell, Jr.
[Mr.Cromwell’s family is currently receiving $1,205,434 from the ARP and between 1996 and 2000 received another $11,805 in Federal subsidies.
Louis  E. Cullipher
Louis  E. Cullipher is the former Virginia Beach Director of Agriculture
Roy David Flanagan

[Mr. Flanagan’s family is currently receiving $462,381 from the ARP and between 1996 and 2000 received another $52,906 in Federal subsidies.
VB City Councilwoman
Barbara Henley
[Between 1996 and 2000 Mrs. Henley’s family has received $19,517  in Federal subsidies.
Kathy Vaughan Lloyd
[Between 1996 and 2000 Mrs. Vaughan Lloyd’s family received $146,643 in Federal subsidies.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

Never have these Statute of Liberty words by Emma Lazarus rung more true than today when applied to our farmers.

We are providing subsidies to our sod busters in two different ways; both spell relief the same: Welfare.

The Virginia Beach Agriculture Reserve Plan takes the hard earned dollars from the taxpayers and gives it to land owners under the premise of preserving farming and as a subtle growth restriction tool.  It is called purchasing development rights.  The voluntary program is intended to prevent farmers and land owners from growing houses instead of crops.

Is the ARP working?   From the land owners point of view, when you rob Peter to pay Paul, Paul never complains.  To Paul, it’s a great success.  The answer to that question is open ended, and depends on how much your willing to pay for success.

Well, since the first application  was approved  on August 27, 1997, your gifts of charitable success will have contributed $19,077,694 to 33 landowners.  Shades of Grapes of Wrath!  Never have so many given so much to so few.

In addition to a portion of your local real estate taxes dedicated to the men behind the plow in the ARP, your Federal taxes also subsidize our local corn fed welfare recipients.  From 1996 to 2000 Federal dollars filled the local bibbed overalls to an overflowing amount of $8,768,434.00