Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) this week introduced legislation to increase transparency in the $9 billion annual crop insurance subsidy program. The Crop Insurance Subsidy Transparency Act requires the US Department of Agriculture to make public all individuals and corporations that receive the taxpayer-funded subsidy.
"Now that direct farm subsidies for commodity crops have gone out of fashion, big agribusiness has found a way to receive tax payer-funded subsidies in another name -- crop insurance - and without the scrutiny," said Speier.
She continued, "It's not fair that taxpayers foot the bill for $9 billion a year in crop insurance premiums and payouts, but we are not allowed to see who benefits from government funded discounts the way we are able to see which agribusinesses receive direct payments.
"My bill makes crop insurance transparent to the American people. While some farmers need support with crop insurance payments, we know some of those receiving the money are absent landowners or major corporations getting over a million dollars a year in subsidies. The notion that big agribusinesses can get billions of taxpayer dollars while hiding behind a veil of government secrecy is ludicrous.
"Some of my colleagues in Congress want to cut food stamps while spending billions on a cash cow for corporate agribusiness that's kept and fed in the dark. The time to shed light on this practice is now," concluded Speier.
Last year, 26 crop insurance policyholders each received more than $1 million in insurance subsidies and more than 10,000 policyholders received $100,000 or more, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group.
To pay for a greater expansion of taxpayer-backed subsidies to crop insurance premiums in a new farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee has proposed cutting food stamp assistance by $16.5 billion.
Although Congress has delayed consideration of a full 5-year farm bill reauthorization, disclosing the names of who is cashing in on wasteful crop insurance subsidies can and should be done today.