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Conservation, Crop Insurance and Tax Dollars

By Rachael Meyer,, Center for Rural Affairs

The federal crop insurance program provides an agricultural safety net, and crop insurance premium subsidies were created to increase usage of these risk management tools. The federal government subsidizes, on average, 62 percent of crop insurance premiums annually.

Crop insurance guarantees income year after year, but does not require much at all in terms of good soil and water conservation. And nothing in the federal crop insurance program prevents or discourages the increased planting of marginal land or land that is unsuitable for row cropping in order to increase insured acres. And crop insurance policies will ultimately guarantee revenue on every acre, regardless of how large the operation grows.

Congress took money out of programs that support conservation such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, all in the name of budget cuts. But, at the same time, they spent $58.7 billion (from 2003-2012) on crop insurance 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.

It begs the question, why put money toward conserving the soil and water we rely on for food when so much money goes into a crop insurance system that neither requires nor encourages efforts to protect and conserve our soil and water.

America needs to reexamine the federal crop insurance subsidy program, and call for reforms that protect the soil and water we all depend upon.