Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers: $10 million in taxpayer subsidies behind the ‘tears’

Written By: Dan Bacher, April 10, 2014

Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers: $10 million in taxpayer subsidies behind the ‘tears’

To understand what is really going on in California water politics, you have to "follow the money." 

Restore the Delta, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the salmon-killing peripheral tunnels, is doing just this in its series of reports entitled, "INTRODUCING THE TOP 1% WATER TAKERS: Water subsidies, cotton subsidies, and the corporate agribusiness elite 1%" 

It turns out those are crying the loudest in the campaign by agribusiness interests to build the twin tunnels and to pump more Delta water south in the drought are corporate mega-farmers who receive millions in taxpayer subsidies. 

Starrh & Starrh Cotton Growers, who received $10 million in taxpayer subsidies, exemplify this hypocrisy of the subsidized agribusiness. 

"Corporate agribusiness tycoons take taxpayer-subsidized water exported from the Delta and receive taxpayer subsidies for cotton and other crops," according to Restore the Delta (RTD). "Is the cost, plus the harm to the Delta, worth the benefit? Exported water supports a business model that is bad for taxpayers, and antithetical to the hope of a sustainable economy and environment for the Delta and California." 

On March 19, 2014, Larry Starrh, co-owner of Starrh Ranch in Shafter, gave "tearful testimony" regarding his need for farm water at the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Field Hearing in Fresno, reported Restore the Delta. 

"Shortages that were created and controlled by regulations that have been imposed and brandished like weapons," Starrh claimed. "Sadly, in the real world, water is about power, water is a weapon, water is a hostage." 

While giving his testimony, Mr. Starrh talked about his third-generation farm, and how they had to remove 1000 acres of almonds from their 9000 acres of almonds this year due to reduced water deliveries during the drought. 

Starrh was one of nine witnesses at a loud House Natural Resources Committee field hearing on California's water crisis convened in the Fresno City Council chambers. He echoed the thoughts of many in the audience about environmental regulations that curb farm water deliveries. 

"What Larry Starrh did not explain is that Starrh businesses took over $10 million in subsidies for growing thirsty cotton in Kern County from 1995-2012," RTD noted. "West Side San Joaquin Valley growers help secure their water through political contributions." 

RTD revealed that Starrh family members made over $50,000 in political contributions (2012 - 2014), including to many of the Central Valley Congressmen who heard Larry Starrh’s testimony on how the Starrhs need “their water.” 

RTD said, "The Starrhs chose to plant 9000 acres of almonds with exported water on arid, poorly draining land in a state that experiences drought 40% of the time. Fred Starrh complains that they have paid money for water, and the fish paid nothing, forgetting how many millions of Chinook salmon, Sturgeon, Threadfin Shad, and Delta Smelt have been killed by excessive water exports from the Delta. The Starrhs had enough money to make significant political contributions over the last three years partly because they pay for project water that does not cover the cost of the destroyed fisheries." 

Star is Director and Founding President of the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association, the Vice Chairman of the Global Marketing Committee - Cotton Incorporated, a Director of Cotton Incorporated and a Treasurer of Belridge Water Storage District. 

To watch Starrh's testimony, go to: 

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