Press Release: Whitman returns conservation reserve program payments

Sept. 21, 2006 –– Whitman College announced today that it has repaid the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for all payments it received under the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 2004 and 2005. The repayment of $101,000, including interest, was a result of an unintentional violation of CRP rules, according to President George Bridges.

In 2004 Whitman College accepted a cash rent payment from a tenant on a farm which was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The college believed the rent payment was allowable under the CRP rules, but Whitman was subsequently advised by the FSA that the acceptance of the cash rent payment was not in compliance. The matter was referred to the Washington State FSA committee.

In a letter to Whitman dated Sept. 19, 2006, the state committee reported that it found the violation “was not so much specifically intended to evade the payment limitation rules but rather had that effect.” The state committee determined the violation made Whitman ineligible to receive CRP payments in 2004 and 2005 and directed the college to refund payments received for those years plus interest.

Whitman College owns 15 farms in Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon. The farms provide employment for local farmers and income to support the college. Management of the farms is led by the college’s Farm Committee, and includes staff and local farmers.

“Whitman trustees and officers are disheartened by this matter and take it very seriously. It is the policy of Whitman College to abide by and adhere to all government farm program rules,” said Jim Hayner, Whitman trustee. “Whitman has acknowledged to the FSA that it erred in accepting this rental payment and has implemented additional oversight and control measures to ensure that an incident like this does not occur in the future,” Hayner continued.