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More Editorials, the Crop Insurance Lobby Powerhouse

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Environmental Working Group released two eye-opening investigations today as the Senate farm bill teeters between passage and failure. The first is an exhaustive analysis of the crop insurance lobby and reveals why subsidizing crop insurance has been in such favor with Congress:

Few Americans know that taxpayers finance a $90 billion crop insurance program that provides millions in subsidies to highly profitable farm businesses and insurance companies.

And even fewer know that the crop insurance industry spends more on lobbying and political donations than farm organization representing corn, soybean and wheat farmers.

And EWG’s other research dispels the myth perpetrated by the crop insurance lobby and leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee that lavish taxpayer support for crop insurance isn’t a subsidy:

When the government allows oil and gas companies to avoid paying taxes, lawmakers call it a “subsidy.” But when the government pays 62 percent of the cost of obtaining crop insurance, it’s called a “discount?”

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The New York Times editorial board weighed in again on the farm bill, this time on proposed cuts to food assistance:

Such a cutback in food benefits for struggling families and children is unconscionable in a bill containing plenty of unnecessary giveaways for corporate farming interests. With the Senate poised to take up the bill, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat of New York, is waging a tough fight to restore the food-stamp cut. She has offered an amendment that would make a humane and sensible change — lowering the subsidies to highly profitable crop insurance companies to avoid any trims in the food-stamp program.

The St. Louis Post- Dispatch editorialized on the farm bill, saying:

It's less of a safety net than a security blanket that shifts risks to taxpayers and guarantees farmers substantial profits. That must change; otherwise, the cost of the new insurance programs could greatly exceed Congressional Budget Office estimates, leaving the federal government on the hook for billions of added dollars each year.

In a particularly cruel twist, the bill pays for these new programs in part by taking food out of the mouths of poor children.

While the Cedar Rapids Iowa Gazette editorial board looks at solutions for linking crop insurance to conservation compliance:

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, favors linking conservation requirements to crop insurance.

Another suggestion came from Jack Kintzle, Coggon farmer and former president of the National Corn Growers Association, during Monday’s meeting: How about charging farmers more for their crop insurance if they don’t implement conservation practices?

The latter option strikes us as the fairer and more effective one.

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Table Scraps:

-       For mega-farms worried about proposed subsidy limits, Drovers Cattle Network offers a primer on gaming the lavish $750,000 AGI limit.

-       Senators Mark Begich, (D-Ark.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), have introduced an amendment to the Senate farm bill that would make public the names of the individuals who benefit from taxpayer-funded crop insurance premium subsidies.

-       The Washington Post’s Suzy Khimm has Stacy Dean, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, saying egregious food stamp fraud “happens so infrequently that stronger enforcement being proposed for SNAP isn’t even expected to result in meaningful savings to taxpayers.” No word yet if farmers that win $46 million dollar jackpots can still receive hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece in federal subsidies for years after.

-       Grist calls out its five farm bill amendments to watch.

-       Iowa State economist Bruce Babcock tells NPR “"Farmers really do like taxpayer subsidies. But its not like they are going to go out of existence if they don't get them, regardless of what prices or profitability does”

-       Southern California public radio station KPCC asks “Can California stomach the Farm Bill?”

Tweet of the day farm bill twofer:

@Wonkette It's Farm Bill Time, And All Amendments Are Perfectly Reasonable & Germane http://t.co/UVSWFREl

@7im Can I get a subsidy for my Farmville acreage? #farmbill

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