agriculture, Environment

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, recipient of free federal money, accuses clean energy of taking corporate welfare

Rep. Jimmy Dixon: Opposes corporate welfare unless it applies to farmers (Photo: NCGA)

This post has been updated with comments from Rep. Dixon.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, the mastermind behind at least 10 anti-environmental bills this session, has targeted renewable energy as his ennemi du jour. He’s particularly incensed by tax credits and other subsidies for wind and solar.

This is from his Facebook page:

It is an insult to our agriculture and farming heritage to continue to call wind and solar facilities “farms.” It is also a fraud on the hard working rate payers who are required to purchase the higher cost energy these facilities produce. Without corporate welfare in the form of tax credits and property tax abatements they would not be viable. 

But Dixon isn’t mentioning that he has received thousands of dollars in corporate welfare from the federal government — the same federal government he has repeatedly accused of overreach.

From 1995 to 2014, Dixon, a Duplin County farmer, received $21,353 in subsidies from the US Department of Agriculture. These payments are logged with the USDA; the Environmental Working Group compiled the giveaways in its national Farm Subsidy Database. According to Duplin County property records, Dixon owns about 66 acres in Warsaw.

Of that amount, roughly half — $10,146 — was paid to Dixon in commodity subsidies for livestock, corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton. The other half — $11,207 — was for disaster payments. Dixon did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Dixon told NCPW via email that the tax credits and property tax abatements are “much different” than the farm subsidies for indemnity — when more livestock die than usual, generally because of adverse weather — or disaster relief. “I do not consider the payments I received as welfare, and certainly not corporate welfare, since I did not apply as a corporation.”

Until 2014, the USDA directly paid farmers subsidies in order to offset market fluctuations in crops and livestock, including chickens. (The 2014 Farm Bill changed the commodities law to help wean farmers off the federal teat, although now they can receive more subsidies in the form of crop insurance.)

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, can decimate farms. So in addition to subsidizing crop insurance, Congress appropriates money to compensate farmers who have lost crops or livestock as a result of these occurrences. Hurricanes Fran (1996) and Floyd, Dennis and Irene (1999) would have likely qualified Dixon for disaster subsidies in those years.

Dixon is low on the food chain, though, in terms of federal money received. According to the EWG, the top five farms in North Carolina each received from $5.5 million to nearly $8 million from 1995-2014.

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