The Buzz

Environmental group hammers crop insurance, a Pat Roberts favorite

Soft red winter wheat is harvested in Kirkland, Illinois, in July. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Soft red winter wheat is harvested in Kirkland, Illinois, in July. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, is generally considered a skeptic when it comes to federal spending for most domestic programs.

But he is a fierce defender of federal crop insurance, the program that subsidizes premiums for farmers and covers part of the losses of private insurance companies that pay out to subscribers who lose all or part of a crop.

Roberts threatened to scuttle the recent two-year budget deal after learning it placed a cap on earnings for crop insurers, a move designed to reduce spending on the program by $3 billion. He backed off after extracting promises the crop insurance component could still be negotiated.

“I have worked my entire career to build crop insurance as a public/private partnership that best protects producers and taxpayers,” he said in a recent release.

Now, the critics of crop insurance are pushing back.

The Environment Working Group — long critical of farm subsidies — is out with a new report, calling crop insurance an “annual disaster” that costs taxpayers billions of dollars while damaging the environment.

“Crop insurance is not really insurance, but income support masquerading as disaster relief,” the report claims.

And: “Policymakers must cut through the myths spread by its champions and return crop insurance to a safety net that taxpayers and the environment can afford.”

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