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Policy Plate BLOG

Your daily serving of food and farm policy.

The Latest from Policy Plate

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:

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NEW on the Environmental Working Group’s highly-regarded farm subsidy database (more than 350 million searches since 2004): crop insurance data.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Editorial boards across the country continue deriding the lack of meaningful reform in the Senate farm bill. The Washington Post weighed in today in an editorial called, “Fertile ground for change.” Some excerpts: "The bill’s savings would have been almost twice as great if it did not offset the elimination of direct payments with a new, subsidized crop insurance program on top of the generous one from which farmers already benefit."


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Friday, June 8, 2012


The New York Times’ Ron Nixon reports that the Obama administration wants to see deeper cuts to crop insurance as the farm bill debate goes forward: "The bill is expected to cost about $969 billion over the next 10 years, but cuts overall spending by $23 billion."

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,  Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced amendments today that would save taxpayers billions of dollars and take important steps toward reforming the heavily subsidized federal crop insurance program.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Salt Lake City Tribune joined the growing list of newspapers casting scorn on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill. 

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Environmental Working Group today released a letter signed by more than 70 American food and health leaders who urged Congress to cut crop insurance subsidies and redirect that money into vital investments in nutrition, healthy food and conservation programs. Signers include Michal Pollan, Bill McKibben, Marion Nestle and celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Tom Collichio, Alice Waters and Rick Bayless.

Monday, June 4, 2012

New York Times’ editorial board member Robert Semple penned a blistering take on the Senate farm bill for the paper’s Sunday Outlook section. Some excerpts: "Every five years or so, Congress promises a new, improved farm bill that will end unnecessary subsidies to big farmers, enhance the environment and actually do something to help small farmers and small towns."

Friday, June 1, 2012

EWG released an eye-opening report yesterday on subsidized crop insurance’s out-of-control spending. Using newly acquired government data, EWG demonstrated that crop insurance subsidies overwhelmingly benefit large agricultural operations – to the tune of more than a million dollars apiece in 2011 for 26 growers.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today the Environmental Working Group released a new analysis of 1 million+ government records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. We found that last year more than 10,000 farming operations have received federal crop insurance premium subsidies ranging from $100,000 to more than $1 million apiece. Some 26 farming operations received subsidies of $1 million or more last year.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A diverse coalition that included farmers, urban residents and conservation and business groups called on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency yesterday to hold farm operations accountable for their share of run-off pollution flowing into Minnesota waterways and the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John Walter, executive editor of Successful Farming Magazine &, took a Memorial Day weekend trip through western Iowa.  Walter writes today at about the environmental catastrophe he witnessed on his drive.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

NPR’s Diane Rehm Show hosted a panel discussion this morning featuring Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jerry Hagstrom of The Hagstrom Report, Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union and Environmental Working Group’s own Scott Faber.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

While the Senate and House Agriculture Committees debate how drastically they will cut proven farm bill conservation programs, widespread industrial agriculture pollution continues to take its toll. An ABC News affiliate in Baltimore reports this morning that the Maryland Department of the Environment found at least 6,000 dead fish washed ashore Monday in two Maryland counties: "MDE officials have been watching algae blooms since March and say that it is likely that one of the blooms caused the fish kill."

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Now that Senate floor action on the 2012 farm bill is looking likely in early June, food policy reformers are weighing in. Grist’s Food Editor, Twlight Greenway, quotes Steph Larsen at Nebraska’s Center for Rural Affairs on the need for urgency on the part of good food advocates: "Say it’s 6 p.m. on election night, or the top of the eighth inning. Of all the moments to walk away, is that the one to pick??"

Monday, May 21, 2012


David Rogers reports in Politico on moves by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to smooth over the animosities between regional commodity groups dueling over the committee’s farm bill. Some excerpts: Having just taken over the Agriculture Committee in this Congress, Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, is hemmed in herself by entrenched Midwest Corn Belt interests who see the farm bill’s new subsidy structure as payback after years of Southern dominance.

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Friday, May 18, 2012


E&E’s Amanda Peterka reports (subscription required) on the sad state of reform efforts in the farm bill hearings held this week by the House Agriculture Committee: The new farm bill is unlikely to return to a policy from the late 1980s and early 1990s that required farmers to abide by certain conservation requirements in order to receive crop insurance subsidies from the government.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Progressive Farmer editor Chris Clayton reports on the ongoing House Agriculture Committee hearings on the farm bill. After Wednesday’s session on farm subsidy programs, he notes that, “Farm Bill Austerity Not Quite Taking Hold.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Witnesses at a House agriculture subcommittee hearing today had various ideas for replacing the discredited “direct payment” farm subsidy system. They ranged from raising crop price guarantees to beefing up revenue and crop insurance programs, and all could cost billions more than current farm programs. Lawmakers shouldn’t swallow these proposals as “reform.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Tri-State Neighbor, which covers agriculture in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, reports that the Izaak Walton League of America convened a conservation forum for South Dakota ag officials, producers and conservationists.