- - Friday, May 16, 2014

President Obama wants farmers to be greener, and he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to do it. Earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture said it has $70 million to give to rural small businesses and agricultural producers to promote windmills, solar panels and “energy efficiency.”

These grants and loan guarantees are part of the Rural Energy for America program, dreamed up by the White House to appeal to rural voters and donors with freebies for farmers, ranchers and small rural businesses at the expense of everyone else.

Among other things, taxpayers will pick up the tab for solar panels, grain dryers, windmills and fermentation devices used to manufacture methane. The grants will subsidize energy audits and a federal agent with a clipboard to walk around a farm or business office to recommend additional insulation, replacing drafty windows and purchasing energy-efficient machines, the common-sense things that farmers and smart businessmen do. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack boasts that the handouts will help “rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs.”

Saving money by being more efficient is a worthy goal for farmers and businessmen, but one that should have nothing to do with the taxpayers. If farmers and rural business owners want to take necessary steps to improve energy efficiency, good for them. They could replace drafty windows without reaching into the pockets of others. Since its debut in 2009, the Rural Energy for America program has cost $1.5 billion. Nearly a third of that has gone to grants and loan guarantees for farmers and rural business owners.

The poster child for the scheme is Cozy Acres Greenhouse in Maine, which the Agriculture Department says received $48,750 from the federal government in 2012, and an additional $25,000 from the Maine Department of Agriculture to pay for solar and geothermal systems in new greenhouses.

The owners of Cozy Acres aren’t poor folks. They have been a reliable wholesale provider of flowers, herbs and vegetables to New England florists, landscapers and restaurants for more than 20 years.

The Rural Energy for America program mostly enables the president to buy favor from rural voters and funnel tax dollars to pals who make solar panels, windmills and other politically correct gadgets. The taxpayers thus dispense extravagant gifts to those who can afford to do the work themselves. When Mr. Obama fertilizes fields with taxpayer green, the only crop is corruption.