Eva Knott 6:37 p.m., May 25
The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group is out with its annual database of federal farm subsidy recipients from 1995 through 2010, searchable by zip code, and more than a few downtown San Diego, La Jolla, and Rancho Santa Fe addresses are on it.
"The fact is, you can be a city slicker in Miami Beach or Beverly Hills and collect farm subsidy payments," the group says on its website. "All you have to do is have an ownership interest in some Iowa farmland.
"While 60 percent of American farmers must get along without a dime in federal subsidies, the so-called farm 'safety net' benefits a narrow band of the wealthiest agri-businesses and absentee land owners and the lobbyists who ensure that the subsidies keep flowing.
"The last farm bill, passed in 2008, was supposed to prevent people who weren’t actively engaged in farming from getting farm payments. It is clear those reforms didn’t work.
"Once again we've exposed the fact that our government is doling out subsidies to big farms that don't need the help and a lot of folks who don't live anywhere near a farm. (Don't believe us? Try entering 90210 in our database and you'll meet the "Farmers of Beverly Hills".)"
According to the database, there are many in San Diego county who collect subsidies. Among them is the Victor and Joyce Copeland trust, ranked second in the horsey village of Rancho Santa Fe, with a total of $862,050 in subsidies for wheat, corn, soybean, sorghum and barley in Colorado and Kansas.
But Vic Copeland, a retired Encinitas optometrist, said in a phone interview yesterday that he's not a typical city slicker. He says he still actively farms his 2500 acres himself, relying on subcontractors to plant and harvest his crops.
On top of that, at age 69, he's a champion Masters cyclist:
Copeland says he agrees with the Environmental Working Group that farm subsidies should be abolished.
"I would like very much for us not to have subsidies. What people don't realize is, the government manipulates the prices, it's not just a handout," says the genial Copeland, who was born in Dodge City, Kansas.
"We'd all be much better off if the government would get out of everybody's business."
EWG's zip-code searchable database of farm subsidies is here: