Separate reports paint conflicting picture of Farquhar Ranch profit

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2007

GREENSBORO &8212; Financial reports for the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch released from the Alabama Department of Corrections and those obtained from the ranch present conflicting views on the profitability of the site&8217;s farm operations.

Reports released from the Department of Corrections showed the property lost approximately $198,000 during the past three fiscal years. However, reports obtained from a Farquhar source speaking on conditions of anonymity showed the ranch made a profit of at least $341,919.90 during the same time period.

Figures provided by the department list only revenues and expenses of the ranch and the resulting profit or loss for each of the previous three fiscal years. It also lists figures from the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

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The figures for the current fiscal year include revenue and some expenses for the first six months and some expenses for the first three quarters. DOC officials did not explain why the data differed as to the date range used for this fiscal year.

The records obtained from the ranch list revenue provided through the sale of catfish, livestock and other miscellaneous farm products along with federal grants to produce the total income for the operations. Also included was a list of expense items broken out into categories including repairs, leases, utilities, material, inmate labor, transportation and other equipment. The financial statements from the ranch do not include employee salaries, which were estimated to be between $188,000 and $264,000. Even at the high end, according to the statements from the ranch, Farquhar would have operated at a profit for the last three fiscal years.

Discrepancies between the two reports exist for both revenue and expenses, with the cattle ranch&8217;s numbers higher on revenue and lower on expenses for every year that coincides on both reports.

The numbers released during the press conference Wednesday, which showed a $60,000 deficit for the first six months of this year, did not include the sale of $244,000 worth of calves on Tuesday and $40,000 worth of catfish on Thursday, according to the source at Farquhar.

Howard said the governor announced the impending sale as a remedy for properties that are a financial drain on taxpayers and are surplus for the state. He said the hazy state of the financial viability of the property is not a reason to sell the ranch that he feels is either making money or breaking even.

Along with the cattle ranch, the properties listed by the governor&8217;s press office as being put up for sale are: 1,851 acres of the 2,215 acres at Red Eagle Honor Farm in Montgomery, an empty and unused 16,000-square foot building on South Union Street in Montgomery, 32 acres in Wetumpka on Highway 231 North and 10 acres at the old Kilby prison in Montgomery. Preliminary estimates by the Department of Corrections list the total income generated by the land sales to run between $16.33 and $23.87 million, with the value of the Farquhar ranch estimated between $9.29 and $12.38 million for the remaining 3,869 acres for sale.

Both Gov. Bob Riley and DOC Commissioner Richard Allen said the land sales, along with bringing inmates back from private facilities in Louisiana and putting more inmates in work programs, will allow the department to generate money to cover code upgrades, maintenance and capital improvements at state department of correction facilities that will cost is excess of $90 million. The improvements will be done over a period of several years, said Allen and the funds generated through land sales will cover the cost of the first year.

Allen and Riley said all property that will be sold will be appraised, advertised and sold through a public bid process to the highest bidder. The governor&8217;s press office said the process will mirror that which was used to sell 540 acres of the cattle ranch in Greensboro earlier this year, which brought in $1.6 million and was higher than the appraised value of the property, $1.4 million.

Corbett said there is no way at this time to know how long the process of selling the property and moving inmates from the cattle farm will take, but the sell will be handled by the Alabama department of Corrections State Lands Division.