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Policy Plate BLOG

Your daily serving of food and farm policy.

The Latest from Policy Plate

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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baylen Linnekin, writing in the libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine, makes “The Case Against Taxpayer-Funded Crop Insurance.”

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Friday, May 11, 2012

The Los Angeles Times describes the Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposal to subsidize deductibles on crop insurance under the farm bill as “a deal most businesses would relish.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

EWG president Ken Cook issued a ringing call to the good food movement to take a stand on the farm bill in a post this morning titled, “I Call the Vote: A Farm Bill Litmus Test for the Food Movement.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

National Wildlife Federation’s Lara Bryant, coordinator of the organization’s agriculture program, had a pointed op-ed in yesterday’s Memphis Commercial Appeal on why federal crop insurance should require good conservation practices by farmers.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

While the farm country press continues to scoff at the Senate farm bill’s illusionary “reform” measures, fiscal conservatives are noticing the bill’s burden on taxpayers. Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, writes on the site, “It’s time for Republicans to stand up for the free market, including agriculture.”

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Media in the heart of farm country continue to heap scorn on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposed farm bill. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s editorial board had this to say today in piece titled, “Congress Should Rein in Crop Insurance:” The bill slashes at least $23 billion from some farm subsidies and other programs, meaning lawmakers are living up to their pledge to stop making direct payments to farmers for crops they don't grow.

Friday, May 4, 2012


From the heart of Corn Country, the Des Moines Register editorial board weighed in today on the badly flawed Senate farm bill.  An excerpt: "The Senate bill would also eliminate the link between crop subsidies and compliance with conservation programs that protect against soil erosion and field runoff that fouls rivers and lakes and contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The Bloomberg News editorial board published a humdinger of an editorial today criticizing the Senate Agriculture committee’s farm bill. An excerpt: "In place of fixed payments the committee added a new subsidy in the form of expanded crop insurance. Why this was needed is hard to fathom, because existing crop-insurance programs will cost taxpayers as much as $90 billion in the coming decade, according to the Congressional Research Service."

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