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Tea Party candidate received farm subsidies, but he's ready to eliminate them

Last week, Amy Gardner reported on the Tea Party flak faced by Tennessee congressional candidate Stephen Fincher over the roughly $200,000 per year he receives in federal farm subsidies.

The size of Fincher's subsidies put him in a class of his own, but he's not alone in receiving such subsidies. According to USDA records downloaded by the Environmental Working Group, Indiana State Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who is running for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, received a total of $156,907.54 in subsidies from 1997 to 2006. During the last year for which we have records, he got $13,630 in subsidies.

Stutzman, who co-owns a farm and fully owns a farm trucking company, was elected to Indiana's legislature in 2002 and has built some national support among conservatives looking for another rising star. On his campaign site, Stutzman trumpets the support of RedState's Erick Erickson and some kind words from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

But the subsidies issue has dogged Stutzman as he courts the support of Tea Party activists.

According to a discussion between some activists on NotInKokomo.com, Stutzman told a meeting of the Huntington Tea Party that the United States needs to "incrementally move away from farm subsidies." In a questionnaire he filled out for the group, he didn't touch on that specific issue, but he condemned "government take-overs of private industry, or government bail-outs of business, regardless of size."

When asked about the subsides, Stutzman said that he hadn't taken too much heat -- "most people in Indiana respect the farmer" and confirmed that he'd promised Tea Partiers that he wanted to phase out the program.

"I do believe we should get out of the subsidy business," said Stutzman. "We should let free markets work. A permanent subsidy creates a permanent distortion of the market and right now farmers have to work within this system."

If elected, Stutzman said he would take a hard look at farm bills -- he pointed out that his Republican rivals, both congressional veterans, used to support them flat-out.

"I make more off of crop insurance in a bad year that subsidy will ever pay. But we have to keep a level playing field globally," he said.

By David Weigel  |  April 8, 2010; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Tea Party  
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