Millionaire real estate developer is top recipient of farm subsidies

By Laurie Bennett

May 18, 2008 at 10:49am

In the San Jose area, John Vidovich is better known as a real estate developer than as a farmer.

His family’s real estate company, De Anza Properties, has built office complexes, condominiums, mobile home parks and hotels. He and his wife, Lydia, live not in a farmhouse but in a Los Altos Hills home valued at $11.4 million.

According to a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group, Vidovich and his family were the nation’s top recipients of direct farm subsidies in 2007.

The family farming business, Sandridge Partners of Sunnyvale, received $1,064,000 in government payments last year.

The Environmental Working Group’s tally of payments in prior years shows that the Vidovich family received nearly $6.8 million in subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Vidoviches differ from the traditional farm family in other ways, too. Most farmers don’t give thousands of dollars to political candidates.

According to the Federal Election Commission, members of the Vidovich family have made $22,000 in federal campaign contributions since 2001. One contribution - $2,000 to Rep. Jim Costa - went to a Democrat. The remaining $20,000 went to Republicans - Toni Casey’s unsuccessful run for Senate, and Bush-Cheney in in 2003.

John Vidovich also gave substantial amounts to state political campaigns. Filings with the California secretary of state show that his contributions to state candidates and political committees totaled $80,850 last year.

The Vidoviches epitomize critics’ complaint that large agribusinesses are the major beneficiaries of the $307 billion farm bill approved last week by both houses of Congress. Although President Bush has promised to veto the bill, it drew such broad bipartisan support that Congress should easily be able to override the veto.

The presidential candidates, however, have split along party lines. Republican John McCain opposes the bill, while Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton support it.

Critics note not only the large payments to commercial farmers, but rising crop prices that would seem to nullify the need for subsidies. As the Mercury News, the hometown paper for the Vidovich family, editorializes today:

Since the last farm bill was enacted in 2002, the five crops that receive the lion’s share of farm subsidies have also enjoyed massive price increases: cotton (105 percent price increase), soybeans (164 percent), corn (169 percent), wheat (256 percent) and rice (281 percent). For consumers, these price increases have caused financial pain domestically and near-riots abroad. For farmers, it’s a sunnier story: Total net farm income has leaped 56 percent in just two years, and helped bring the average farm household’s income to a record $89,434, and its net worth to $838,875.

The Vidoviches’ most subsidized crop was cotton; smaller amounts were paid for wheat, peanut and corn.

Family patriarch Stephen J. Vidovich began investing in land in the 1920s, buying a Cupertino cherry and apricot orchard and developing it into the De Anza Square Shopping Center. The real estate company operates across the street.

Stephen Vidovich died at age 81 last year of an apparent heart attack as he was driving a tractor on his property in the Cupertino hills.

His son John has served as a Santa Clara County planning commissioner and ran unsuccessfully for Los Altos Hills City Council in 2006.

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  • #1.   Off Plan Property Exchange 05.18.2008

    You sound as bad as the English. What’s your problem? These guys get farms subsidies because they are playing the game to the rules. If the rules are wrong - they should be changed.

    I’m sure that we would all do exactly what these guys have done if we traded places.



  • #2.   derpa 01.21.2014

    Stu. How can the rules be changed when families like this have purchased congress.

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