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Originally published Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM

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Washington Senate hopeful Didier took farm aid

Washington GOP Senate hopeful Clint Didier is campaigning against big government, but he has taken government aid for his farm near Pasco.

The Associated Press

SEATTLE —

Washington GOP Senate hopeful Clint Didier is campaigning against big government, but he has taken government aid for his farm near Pasco.

The Seattle Times reports he has received nearly $273,000 in farm subsidies since 1995. The figure comes from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit critical of the programs.

Didier disputed the amount Monday and said it was no more than $140,000. He told the Times that farmers have to participate or be at a competitive disadvantage.

"If your neighbor has an advantage he is in the position to buy the next farm up for sale," he said.

Didier's 1,000-acre farm received price supports for wheat, corn and barley, reimbursement for crops destroyed by hail, and conservation subsidies to replace steel irrigation pipes with plastic.

The former Washington Redskins football player hopes to advance through August's top two primary and challenge Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in November.

Didier would have the government get out of the agriculture market.

"Let's get rid of the farm bill. Let's get rid of all of it," he said.

Didier's parents lived in a tent for the first year as they started their farm that wouldn't have been possible without the Columbia Basin Project - the irrigation and hydroelectric-dam network authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress in the 1930s and 1940s.

Didier acknowledges that "without water from the Grand Coulee, we would be nothing more than a desert." But he says farmers make payments for that water to the government, so it should not be viewed as a handout.

After retiring from the NFL in 1990, the two-time Super Bowl winner returned to Eastern Washington and bought his own farm.

"It's a hard way of life. It's a good way of life," he said, but one that is in danger because of smothering government regulation.

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Didier says the state Department of Labor and Industries has put so many restrictions on the work hours and wages of teenagers that farms can't hire them.

"I think that's what's missing in our country - we've taken away the right to work our kids," Didier said.

He says America has grown lazy and relied on a work force from Mexico when the country should be hiring its own fruit pickers.

He says he was moved to challenge Sen. Murray because of his feeling the nation is spending itself into oblivion.

He favors cutting back almost all categories of federal spending.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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