Two Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation they argue would help reform the crop-insurance program by cutting the premium subsidy.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee introduced bills in their respective chambers called "The Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act of 2013." The lawmakers announced their proposals Tuesday at an event in Washington hosted by the Environmental Working Group.
Flake cited that the bill would reduce premium subsidies to levels seen before the Agriculture Risk Protection Act was passed in 2000. Flake stated in a news release the legislation would save $40.1 billion over 10 years.
“The current U.S. fiscal crisis makes a strong argument for a commonsense roll back of crop insurance subsidies,” said Flake. “I’m proud to have the support of Congressman Duncan in introducing this legislation, which offers an opportunity to have taxpayer-funded federal farm subsidies more realistically reflect our current fiscal situation.”
Duncan added, “The crop insurance program has turned into a huge taxpayer-funded boon for some of the biggest, multi-national insurance companies and multi-millionaire farmers. In a time of record deficits and an incomprehensible $16.5 trillion in debt, this program can no longer be justified in its current form. Senator Flake and I have joined together to offer a common sense reform that shields taxpayers and protects family farms."
It is unlikely members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will rush to co-sponsor the bills. As Environmental Working Group noted in its news release, both committees proposed to increase spending on crop insurance in their proposed farm bills last year. Still, the bills by Flake and Duncan also won't be the last to curb crop-insurance costs. The Senate did vote last year to place a cap on the crop-insurance premium subsidy for farmers with more than $750,000 adjusted-gross income. That amendment was co-authored by Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The Senate bill last year would have increased crop-insurance spending by $5.5 billion over 10 years. The House bill would have increased programs for crop insurance by $11 billion over 10 years.
The Flake-Duncan bill comes as the National Crop Insurance Services is beginning to more aggressively push back against the Environmental Working Group and its claims. NCIS has posted a new video on-line with farmers and crop-insurance agents criticizing claims by EWG that farmers were laughing all the way to the bank because of crop insurance. NCIS argues no one begins a crop year hoping for a drought.
NCIS also issued a press release citing inaccurate claims last year that crop-insurance indemnities would be in the $20 billion to $40 billion range. Indemnities as of now are $15.4 billion, according to USDA. The payouts by insurers aren't nearly as high as some expected, but it is still a record payout.
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