Twenty-six farming operations received crop in insurance subsidies of $1 million or more in 2011, and thousands more recieved upwards of $100,000 each, according to a recent report by the Environmental Working Group.
The Environmental Working Group is a Washington D.C. advocacy group that analyzed more than 1 million government records pertaining to federal crop insurance, using the Freedom of Information Act.
Crop insurance costs are soaring. The taxpayers share alone climbed from $1.5 billion in 2002 to $7.4 billion in 2011, the EWG said.
“Subsidized crop insurance premiums have become the primary farm program,” said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska small farm advocacy group.
Subsidized crop insurance premiums contribute to the concentration and industrialization of agriculture and are heavily funded by taxpayers, the EWG report showed.
Among the EWG findings:
• A single farm business in Florida received $1.9 million in subsidies for premiums to insure crops of tomatoes and peppers in five counties.
• A Minnesota farm business insuring corn and soybeans in eight counties received $1.7 million in federal crop insurance subsidies.
• In Texas, the 10 percent of farm businesses that received the greatest amount of insurance subsidies harvested 63 percent of all the crop insurance subsidies that went into the state last year.
• The 10 percent of North Dakota farm businesses that received the greatest amount of insurance subsidies took in 45 percent of the subsidies going to all farms in the state.
“It’s past time to put a cap on crop insurance premium subsidies and stop subsidizing mega farms to bid land away from smaller and beginning farmers,” Hassebrook said. "If one corporation farmed the entire Midwest, the government would pay over 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre.”
According to the EWG, U.S. taxpayers pick up an average of 62 percent of the crop insurance premiums for farm businesses, and the subsidies go to large operators with no conservation strings attached to protect water and soil, no means testing, and no payment limit on how much a farm business can collect, the report said.
The extensive federal crop insurance records have not been made public before and were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the EWG said.
A copy of the Environmental Working Group statement, along with links to the analysis and supporting data, are at http://static.ewg.org/pdf/2012cropinsurance.pdf.
The vast majority of farm operations would be unaffected if premium subsidy limits were implemented, such as a $40,000 limit analyzed by the Government Accountability Office.
The bottom 80 percent of policyholders (389,494 operations), for instance, received subsidies worth just over $5,000 in 2011, the EWG said.