Shaheen, Toomey make case to limit crop insurance subsidies in farm bill

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 - Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) headed to the Senate swamp today to push for an open amendment process to the 2012 Farm Bill being debated on the Senate floor. Their amendment to cap crop insurance subsidies at $40,000 is not yet scheduled for a vote.

“A trillion-dollar bill of this breadth and complexity should have a wide open amendment process,” Toomey said during a press conference today. “It's frustrating that we go day after day with few or no votes at all.”

Shaheen said the debate over the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012” is expected to go into next week, but that the Senate Agriculture Committee leadership “made it apparent” they do not want a vote on the crop insurance amendment.

The Senators cited a Government Accountability Office report that indicates less than 4 percent of producers would have been affected by a $40,000 premium support limit in 2011, but Kansas State University Economist Art Barnaby argues that the GAO data is “off the mark” and that thousands of operations could be impacted, including many smaller farms that produce high-value fruits and vegetables.

The Shaheen-Toomey amendment would cap crop insurance subsidies at $40,000, reducing the deficit by about $5.2 billion over ten years, they said. 

Toomey indicated his frustration with the floor process of his first Farm Bill, noting that he doesn't “see how anyone can disagree on having a vote about an amendment that is germane with bipartisan support.”

Environmental Working Group (EWG) Government Affairs Vice President Scott Faber, who joined the press conference, said “now that crop insurance is the primary way we subsidize farmers,” the program needs a limit. The Farm Bill passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee eliminates direct payments and expands the crop insurance program, making it the main safety net for producers. 

Yesterday, EWG released a report in an attempt to demonstrate that crop insurance companies and agents have quietly grown into a powerful lobby on Capitol Hill, surpassing traditional commodity group expenditures on lobbying and political action committees. However, the report failed to put agriculture's lobbying activity in true perspective.

For example, EWG lumped lobbying expenditures for all of the crop insurance companies and associations together to show a combined investment of 730,000 in 2011, but failed to point out that each of the commodity groups also have state associations and allied industries who also lobby on their behalf.  

EWG pointed out that the National Corn Growers Association “only” spent $590,000 on lobbying in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. However, other corn grower associations also invested in lobbying activities, including the Minnesota Corn Growers ($160,000); the Kansas Corn Growers ($40,000) and the North Dakota Corn Growers ($10,000) for a total of $800,000. So when you lump all of the corn grower lobbying funds together, as EWG did with the crop insurance groups, corn actually spent more on lobbying.

The most recent analysis of PAC spending, conducted by Agri-Pulse, indicates that the amount of money spent by commodity groups and crop insurance companies on political action committee's also pales in comparison to other associations such as the American Crystal Sugar Cooperative or the National Rural Electric Cooperative. To see that PAC report, click on the link below.

http://agri-pulse.com/Food-and-Farm-PAC-campaign-money-splits-2-1-for-GOP-02222012.asp

To view the EWG report, click:

http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2012/06/secret-lobby-for-secret-safety-net/

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