America loves farmers. Our government loves them so much that they subsidize, on average, 62 percent of their crop insurance premiums. Crop insurance provides a safety net for farmers when things go wrong, and premium subsidies were intended to get more farmers interested in using crop insurance.
Crop insurance guarantees income year after year, but does not require much at all in terms of good soil and water conservation from farmers. Since farmers know they are guaranteed income, there is nothing stopping them from increasing insured acreage by planting marginal land, or land that is unsuitable for farming. Insurance companies ultimately hand farmers a nice cash reward for damaging the heartland.
To cut the budget, congress took money out of programs that support conservation such as the Conservation Stewardship Program. At the same time that they made this decision, they had spent $58.7 billion (from 2003-2012) on premium subsidies and administrative and loss reimbursements for insurance companies like Wells Fargo, which had $1.4 trillion in assets in 2013, and Ace, which had a $2.7 billion net income in 2012. But why put money toward conserving the soil and water we rely on for food when so much money goes to the very companies that are paying farmers through insurance regardless of their conservation efforts?
America needs to reexamine the effect crop insurance is having on our food industry or else taxpayers will continue to pour money into supporting farming practices that only destroy our environment.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.