The key to ending world hunger while protecting the environment is to help small farmers in the developing world increase their productivity and income.
Think U.S. Agriculture Will End World Hunger? Think Again.
The federal crop insurance program – now the primary way taxpayers support farm income – is coming under increased and well-deserved scrutiny because of its high cost, lack of transparency and environmental implications.
A Lottery That’s a Sure Bet
Drinking water, lakes and rivers in Iowa and across the Corn Belt are in serious trouble because of polluted farm runoff. To tackle the problem, for decades we’ve taken the approach favored by agricultural interests – making federal tax dollars available for conservation practices that curb runoff, encouraging farmers to adopt those practices, then hoping enough of them volunteer to do the right thing.
Voluntary Programs Fail to Clean Up Dirty Water
The cost to taxpayers of providing crop insurance to farmers has more than tripled since 2001, rising from an average of about $3 billion a year in 2001-2003 to more than $10 billion a year in 2012-2014. The increase is largely the result of sharp jumps in the cost of subsidizing both farmers’ premiums and the companies that sell crop insurance.
It Won’t Kill Crop Insurance
The congressional budget deal signed by President Obama in early November includes a cost-saving measure that trims the profits taxpayers guarantee the crop insurance industry. The guaranteed rate of return of these companies would drop from 14.5 percent to 8.9 percent, saving $3 billion over the next 10 years.
Cuts Won’t “Devastate” Crop Insurance
When you buy home or car insurance, you expect to collect only when there’s a disaster – a tornado, a hailstorm or a collision. If there was a policy that paid out year after year, you only had to pay less than half of the premium and you’d actually make money from buying it, you’d jump at it – but the insurer would be foolish.
An Annual Disaster
The so-called “prevented planting” component of the federal crop insurance program is wasting billions of dollars while encouraging growers to plow up wildlife-sustaining wetlands in the iconic Prairie Pothole Region of North and South Dakota.
"Prevented Planting" Insurance Plows up Wetlands, Wastes $Billions
A study of five representative Iowa counties shows that requiring simple buffer zones between crop fields and streams could get two-thirds of the way to the state's goal for reducing phosphorus pollution and one-fifth of the way to the nitrogen pollution target, while affecting only a tiny proportion of landowners and a vanishingly small percentage of row-crop acreage.
Stream Buffer Rule = Cleaner Water, Little Cost