According to a recent poll, 71 percent of Washingtonians believe we would have enough money to balance our budget, if only government eliminated all that waste and fraud. And no doubt, when many of these wannabe fraud-busters imagine the culprits, they envision corrupt and/or lazy Olympia bureaucrats.

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Well... they may wanna look a little closer to home:

YAKIMA — A prominent Pasco farmer and winery owner pleaded innocent Monday to federal charges related to an alleged attempt to defraud the government of insurance payments for potato crops. And three other Mid-Columbia farmers face similar allegations.

[...] The indictment documents filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Yakima allege that from 2001-06, the four men and their companies conspired to make false reports to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to defraud the corporation of more than $9.5 million in insurance payments.

The scam was actually pretty clever. One of the defendants would plant a variety of potato not generally suited to processing for french fries, then sign a contract with the other defendants to deliver exactly that. When the crop, as expected, failed to meet specifications, the farmer would collect federally backed crop insurance payments. And they continued to plant this variety and sign these contracts year after year.

Sweet.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Washington's rural economy is in any way dependent on defrauding the federal crop insurance system and the govmint so many folks out there seem to hate so much. No, at least some of Washington's rural economy is dependent on defrauding the multibillion dollar federal clean-up program at Hanford.