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Local Farm Family Disputes USDA Allegations

A local farm family hit with a more than $5 million settlement with the feds is disputing any ideas that they did something wrong.

Dowson Farms reached a $5.4 million settlement after an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office. It alleged the farm's owners set up sham entities to receive increased government subsidies. But according to a statement released by Roger Heaton of Dowson Farms, the family disputed the allegations from the beginning, and had their entity structure approved by the USDA's highest level in the state.

The Farm Service Agency declined to comment to us about this case, but explained how farmers sign up for these programs.

"A multitude of documents you have to complete for eligibility purposes, to determine that you are who you say you are, and that you're farming the way that you say you're farming," Rick Graden of the USDA Farm Service Agency said. "And then we base our payments based on that. It's county offices. In Illinois, we've got 93 FSA county offices. It's their responsibility to make sure the paperwork is complete and accurate."

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office, the settlement is neither an admission of guilt nor a concession by the United States that its claims were not well-founded.