Newly proposed cuts in federal crop insurance subsidies could save $16 billion in taxpayer funds over a decade without imperiling farming or food production in America.
Naturally, farm-state politicians such as U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas oppose the idea, put forward in the new budget of President Barack Obama.
The budget “turns a deaf ear to our nation’s farmers and ranchers by directly cutting the very tool that helps growers produce a safe and affordable food supply year after year,” Roberts said.
That’s unfair and over-the-top rhetoric.
Under the new plan, crop insurance would remain widely available to large farming operations and to smaller family farms. The people who produce crops that can be insured would not face the prospects of boom or bust, depending on the vagaries of the weather.
Instead, the change would force farmers to make smarter decisions about how and what they plant.
Slicing federal support for crop insurance also would put more pressure on the private agencies that make hundreds of millions of dollars a year administering the program to seek out waste and fraud that occur because of unscrupulous farmers and some insurance agents.
Members of Congress ought to be focused on passing a bipartisan farm bill that would establish stricter crop insurance rules to protect taxpayers as well as farmers. Instead, Congress often ends up expanding the program’s cost to taxpayers.
Obama has offered his version of a more positive way forward on this tricky issue. Opponents who simply want to keep the status quo, which is mostly friendly to farmers and insurance agencies, are not acting in the nation’s best long-term interests.