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Is Federal Crop Insurance Policy Leading to Another Dust Bowl?

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Federal Crop Insurance Policy Could Lead to Another Dust Bowl

This map shows counties in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska hit by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. A prolonged drought and poor farming practices led to crop failure and choking dust storms that inflicted poverty, hunger and disease on the region's people.

Today, drought, dust storms and crop failures are back. And instead of helping farmers adapt to dangerous weather, a stealth provision in the 2014 farm bill does just the opposite.

The Federal Crop Insurance Program offers growers heavily subsidized policies that pay when crops fail or prices fall. The program's integrity depends on realistic estimates of crop yields, determined by averaging actual yields over many years. That estimate - a grower's Actual Production History - keeps crop insurance grounded in the real world.

But now Congress lets the government pretend bad years didn't happen when calculating Actual Production History. It makes sense to give growers a break if they have one or two bad years now and then. But when bad years become the norm, growers get stuck on a treadmill of failed crops and insurance payouts.

It would be far better to help farmers adapt to the new, unfriendly weather - which is what helped them recover from last century's Dust Bowl.

Click on a county to see how many years drought has struck since 2006, how many of those bad years can be ignored and the amount of insurance payouts.

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