Just as the Senate prepares to debate the 2012 Farm Bill – the Environmental Working Group is out with new crop insurance analysis that shows 10-thousand individual farming operations have received premium subsidies that range from 100-thousand dollars to more than one-million dollars each in the last year. According to a news release – it’s the first time EWG analysts have obtained information about crop insurance policies and premium subsidies for individual policyholders in each state and county. EWG is reporting the number of policyholders receiving varying levels of premium subsidies – as well as details about 26 operations receiving more than a million dollars in premium subsidies. The group also reports that 80-percent of policyholders received crop insurance subsidies worth just over five-thousand dollars each.
Following the release of their crop insurance study – EWG called on Senators to take action during the farm bill debate to allow USDA to release names of beneficiaries – and introduce amendments to place restrictions on insurance subsidies going to large farming operations. USDA’s Risk Management Agency is currently not permitted to disclose the names of the insured – and EWG says the lack of knowledge should be disturbing to Congress. Before the 2012 Farm Bill hits the floor – EWG President Ken Cook says Senate Ag Committee leaders should lift the veil of secrecy. He goes on to say we must stop giving big payouts that guarantee income to big agribusiness and pass a fair and equitable farm bill that makes meaningful reforms to crop insurance, feeds the hungry and improves the environment and public health. EWG officials are expecting several Senators to introduce amendments to restrict crop insurance – including proposals to means-test crop insurance subsidies, challenge the amount of subsidy flowing to crop insurance companies and agents and require farmers to protect wetlands, grasslands and soil if they are to receive subsidies.
According to the EWG – of the top 10 crops receiving premium subsidies in excess of one-million dollars – corn ranked first, potatoes second, soybeans third and tomatoes fourth. Apples, onions and grapes were also in the top 10. An Iowa-based EWG official was surprised to see the extent to which specialty crop industries were benefitting. The organization has repeatedly said the farm program disproportionately supports commodity producers.