From the Washington Post Online program On Background, September 24- “The USDA quietly approved cooked chicken imports from China last month, raising concerns with some food safety groups and on Capitol Hill. Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America weighs in on the debate.”
From The Wall Street Journal Online, Sept. 24- “U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on the Obama administration’s push to open markets in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.”
From National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), Sept. 24, 2013- “Over the last decade, overall taxpayer spending on farm policy as a whole has steadily declined. Commodity prices have strengthened and the country has shifted to an insurance system that reduces the need for traditional subsides and limits taxpayer exposure.”
Also from NCIS:
OVERLAND PARK, KAN. — 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 new 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.”
Farm Bill Issues
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Political pundits were quick to report last week that passage of the House nutrition measure brings the Congress a step closer to a new farm bill –– an assessment that at least a few others dispute. All agree that it will set up a ‘fierce battle between the House and Senate over social policy.’ But, how that may play out remains to be seen.
“At least for now, last week’s vote does seem to mean the fight is focusing ever more tightly on the supplemental food programs rather than farm policy and safety nets –– although a number of those controversies remain.
“The reason is that many House conservatives, prodded by the Heritage Foundation and a few other conservative groups, say they regard this farm bill fight as their main chance to implement another round of welfare reform, an opportunity they welcome in spite of the fact that it forces them to defend significant cuts in anti-poverty programs while pushing for new, increasingly expensive safety nets for an already prosperous sector.”