No. There is no basis or need for such a requirement for four reasons: 1) because crop insurance is not a traditional farm income support program, 2) subsidy payments do not go to the farmers, 3) extensive and sufficient program data are already made public, and, 4) few Federal programs release individual information on participants. We expand on these four reasons below.
- Crop insurance is not a traditional farm income support program. While private information, such as recipient names, has been released for some traditional farm programs where the farmer received a check intended to support farm income, crop insurance is different. Crop insurance is designed to help farmers manage risk and to achieve high program participation to help protect the financial stability of the food production sector. The farmer enters into a contract with a private-sector insurance provider and pays a premium for the policy. The farmer only receives an indemnity after suffering a verifiable loss and shouldering a portion of the loss as a deductible.
- No subsidy payments go to the farmer. Again, the farmer does not receive a check for a “premium subsidy.” The farmer gets a discount on the actuarial-based risk premium rate established by the government and pays a discounted premium, depending on the level of coverage purchased. Thus, the so-called premium subsidy is a “paper transaction.” It is the difference between the established actuarial premium rate and the actual premium rate a farmer pays.
- Extensive and sufficient program data are already made public. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency provides wide-ranging data on the payments made and costs of crop insurance (see here, particularly the section titled Summary of Business Reports and Application). Additional analysis and data on the distribution of program benefits has been reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The existing information provides all the data needed to evaluate the cost, efficiency and effectiveness of the crop insurance program.
- Few Federal programs release individual information on participants. The Federal government has numerous programs that make subsidy payments directly or indirectly to the public, such as tax expenditures. These programs do not require disclosure of an individual’s private information. There is no reason to single out crop insurance and require release of information not required of most other Federal programs.
It is reasonable to challenge the purpose for releasing the names of farmers who purchase crop insurance. The motive of critics wanting the release of private individual information is clearly not to improve understanding or analysis of program operation, cost and effectiveness. Sufficient information is already available to analyze the program. The motive for obtaining individual information is simply to enable program critics to use an individual’s name as a means to garner media attention.