Romanians Game the Farm Subsidy System With 'FarmVille'

A group of gamers figured out a way to get ag payments for playing a video game.

(Photo: Ingeborg Ruyken/Getty Images; design: Lauren Wade)

Dec 6, 2013· 0 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

In certain parts of America, you’ll sometimes hear stories about farmers who don’t explicitly grow corn or soy or wheat—they farm the farm bill. That is, their crop rotation for any given year, the fields they choose to plant or not plant, how they go about harvesting, is all geared to getting paid the most amount of subsidies possible.

A group of Romanians have done their American counterparts one better, however, earning more than $600,000 in subsidies by playing video games.

While the dedicated farm bill farmer may be something of a rural myth, the federal government does pay out huge amounts of money in subsidies and other programs, such as subsidized crop insurance—$256 billion between 1995 and 2012, according to the Environmental Working Group. I can’t confirm that not a single one of those dollars was paid for a cow that only “lives” in a video game, but that’s exactly how the Romanians earned their payment.

As the British website Metro reports, a group of eight men told the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture they tended to 1,860 cows, for which they were paid approximately $163 per head per year for three years.

The cows lived in a smartphone pasture you may have heard of: “FarmVille.”

In a singular defense, the men are responding to the accusation of fraud by saying, according to Metro, “they weren’t told the farms had to be real when they applied and are taking their case to court.”