As we continue pressing forward in the 2013 Farm Bill debate, the success of the crop insurance program and the benefit that it has had to the American taxpayer is the subject of a recently released NCIS video.
“Over the last decade, overall taxpayer spending on farm policy as a whole has steadily declined,” notes Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services. “That’s no accident,” he adds, explaining that commodity prices have strengthened and the country began shifting to an insurance system that reduced the need for traditional subsides and limited taxpayer exposure.
From 1998 to 2012, insured acreage has increased by 100 million acres. “It has become such a success, that most farmers agreed in 2012 to get rid of direct payments during the Farm Bill debate,” Zacharias notes.
But in addition to eliminating the need for direct payments, the public-private partnership of crop insurance has also eliminated the need for costly ad hoc disaster bills. “Since 1989, 42 pieces of legislation, totaling $70 billion in unbudgeted dollars were passed to help farmers following a disaster, he explains. “Those days are over.”
With crop insurance in place, farmers and private insurance companies now share the risk, ensuring that the entire burden doesn’t fall solely on the laps of taxpayers. Each farmer must pay the premium for their individual policy, and when disaster occurs, the billions paid in premiums by farmers help offset the cost of the insurance. “Farmers have paid $30 billion of their own money on crop insurance protection to buy this coverage,” Zacharias notes. In addition to the premiums paid by farmers, the government has collected more than $4 billion in underwriting gains from 2001-2010, which helped offset losses in the bad years as well.
Zacharias points out that crop insurers have stood alone in offering up budget reductions in recent years, totaling $12 billion. Unfortunately, some in Congress are angling for more, says Zacharias. “The additional cuts they are proposing would result in lower crop insurance participation, ironically shifting risk away from farmers and crop insurance companies right back to taxpayers,” he said.
“As we go forward in the next farm Bill, we would say ‘Do No Harm” to crop insurance.”