U.S. Department of Agriculture census data revealed that government payouts to Montezuma County farmers increased more than 130 percent during a 10-year span, from less than $600,000 in 2002 to nearly $1.4 million in 2012.
Collected every five years, the USDA census data was last reported in 2012.
After reviewing the data, Commissioner Larry Don Suckla, who represents Mancos, attributed the increase farm payments to drought conditions. Much of the West has experienced droughtlike conditions in 11 of the past 14 years.
According to the USDA, 117 Montezuma County farms received a total of $1,387,000 in federal welfare in 2012, meaning an average payment of about $7,800 each. Across Southwest Colorado, the highest payouts went to 17 farmers in Archuleta County, where they divided $329,000 for a typical payment of about $19,350.
Dolores County farmers, 179 total, received the lowest payout, divvying up $115,000, or about $645 each. In La Plata County, 110 farmers divided $752,000 for an average payout of about $6,800.
Montezuma County commissioners, who have been vocal opponents of federal intrusion, have shied from discussing increased farm payments from Uncle Sam.
The Cortez Journal emailed the census figures to Suckla and other county commissioners on Wednesday, Match 11.
Commissioner James Lambert, representing Pleasant View, declined to comment.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel, who represents Cortez, did not answer emails or phone messages.
The USDA reports that the actual costs for subsidies and losses have more than doubled since 2001, reaching $7.6 billion in 2012.
To offset future costs to taxpayers, the GAO report proposed the USDA expand its “good farming practices” guidelines with climate change resilient agricultural practices.