7-As-Congress-Crop-Subisidies-WSJ-16MAR95-A221

7-As-Congress-Crop-Subisidies-WSJ-16MAR95-A221 - As...

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As Congress Considers Slashing Crop Subsidies, Affluent IJ rban F armers Come [Jnder Scrutiny By Bnucn INconsolr, Stoff Reporter o/ Tne Wer-r- STREET JounNlr- WINNETKA, Ill, - The neighbors on Woodley Road know next to nil about Helen Pinnell, but they assume she is loaded. How else could she afford a multimillion dollar home here in one of suburban Chicago's most exclusive enclaves? Her neighbor next door, Marlo Brown, is stunned to hear that an heir to the fabled King Ranch in Texas left his $I0-million share of the vast cattle-and-oil empire to Mrs. Pinnell more than 20 years ago. "lsn't that wonderful luck," exclaims the elderly Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Pinnell, it turns out, is doubly lucky. As if oil royalties and agricultural revenues from her 8?,000-acre spread on the Texas Gulf Coast weren't enough, she collects farm subsidy payments each year from the Agriculture Department. Since 1985, the total payout to her and three Pinnell family trusts comes to nearly $1.5 million, according to USDA payment ud td. Throughout the country, there are thou- sands of other absentee landlords in Mrs. Pinnell's city-slicker shoes, including ranch-owner Sam Donaldson of ABC-TV fame, a New York merchant banker, two scions of an antebellum cotton planter, even an unidentified $400,000-subsidy re- cipient with a distinctly nonrural zip code-90210-in Beverly Hills, Calif . Antisubsidy Backlash How long they can count on govern- ment checks coming in the mail depends on how much money Congress whacks out of the crop-subsidy programs this year. With the 1995 farm biil debate in full crv. lawmakers already are trying to rescind funds from this fiscal year's Agriculture Department budget. Whipping up an anti- subsidy backlash are environmentalists and conservative Republicans, who con- tend that the Depression-era farm pro- grams are badly out of date and out of control. While continuing to provide a safety net for struggling farmers, the critics say,
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