I don't care all that much if Scottie Pippin collected farm program payments. Given my druthers, as my uncle used to say, I'd prefer he left it on the table and eked by on the vast sums of money he collected as a supporting cast member to Michael Jordan's lead role as basketball superstar.

But the amount he collected, in the grand scheme of things, means very little to the national budget or to any taxpayer's contribution to same.

But Pippin and others of wealth and/or influence make good targets for the legion of folk who would prefer that all farm payment funds, except those tagged for subsistence (read family) farms, be eliminated.

And we can depend on the ever-reliable Environmental Working Group (EWG — Can we put a few more Ws in that and make it ewwwwg?) to line up for target practice at Pippin and others, including hard-working farmers, they deem unworthy of assistance.

As soon as Congress begins the messy process of marking up a new farm bill, the EWG and others, including Senator Charles Grassley, for whom term payment limits sound like celestial harmonies, take aim at what they consider excess.

They're ticking the dust off their gun barrels even now.

Unfortunately, their targets include many family farms — farms that have expanded to take advantage of economies of scale and remain family-owned and family-operated. Those farms are the ones that produce most of the food and fiber, and soon fuel, necessary to keep the rest of us fed, clothed, and mobile.

They may receive bigger payments ,but they also take bigger risks. Their annual investments stagger the imagination; their debt loads boggle the mind. I don't know how they sleep.

Their contributions to local economies keep small towns from drying up. Their success means better schools, improved facilities, and a better way of life for farm and non-farm families.

Most would prefer to leave the government check in the mailbox and make do with what they can produce and what the market will provide. Unfortunately, the vagaries of nature and economics often make that impossible, and they need the assistance to get to another year.

No one, including farmers, should be satisfied with inefficient programs or, even worse, abuses. And Congress should address those issues, as they should address wasteful spending and outright fraud in military, welfare, and homeland security spending. We all lose when unscrupulous people take advantage of loopholes in good programs.

But penalizing the folks who need the assistance and can make the best use of supplemental funds during poor production periods or low market turns, makes no sense.

We've already outsourced too much of the nation's economic backbone. Textiles are all but dead. Many other manufacturing jobs are either gone or on their way offshore. We only have to fill our gas tanks to understand the dilemma we face with energy.

And keeping that same fate from happening to our food supply lies in the hands of elected officials who are constantly besieged by those who neither understand nor appreciate the complexities of life on a modern family farm.