Opinion: Crop insurance

From Sept. 4, 2012, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star on crop insurance:

A few generations ago, a drought such as the one now gripping the Midwest would have triggered an outpouring of sympathy for farmers dependent on the whims of the weather for their livelihoods.

Now things are not so simple.

A prediction of record farm income earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture drove home how effective the safety net is for some, particularly those who raise commodity crops like corn and soybeans. ...

The backlash has been fierce, particularly from conservative and tea party types. ...

What's changed during the past couple of decades is the growth of crop insurance. The number of acres insured by U.S. farmers has risen from 45 million acres in 1981 to 262 million in 2011, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Taxpayers subsidize an average 60 percent of the premiums farmers pay for crop insurance. Payout can be up to 85 percent of the revenue that would be generated based on average yields.

So in a year such as this one, when the price of corn is soaring to record levels, even farmers who find cobs with only a few kernels on their shriveled stalks still can expect to get a sizable check from their insurance company. ...

The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons is among the organizations calling for scaling back crop insurance. The center wants Congress to enact caps on subsidies for crop insurance premiums for individual farmers.

The deluge of taxpayer dollars flowing to farmers in this drought could and should boost support for the center's position.




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