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New Yorkers: What's in the Farm Bill for Us?

June 7, 2012

NEW YORK - Congress is trying to trim the budget by putting limits on spending. That point is being raised as the U.S. Senate debates the next Farm Bill, because there are currently no limits on crop insurance subsidies.

Those subsidies amounted to almost $9 billion last year, making up the bigges portion of the Farm Bill's cost, according to Susan Prolman, executive director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She says New York taxpayers pour plenty of money into the Farm Bill, but the state ends up getting little in return.

"Between the years 1995 and 2010, Texas farmers, for example, received $3.6 billion; during the same period, New York farmers received only $160 million."

Prolman says the state would get a better deal if the Senate were to approve an amendment that would place limits on crop insurance subsidies. Those who favor the current version of the bill argue that adding restrictions would place an undue burden on producers.

Prolman says as it stands now, backers of the new Farm Bill claim it delivers reforms - but there are basically no changes to the crop insurance subsidies.

"At a time when Congress is searching for ways to trim government spending, unlimited, uncapped, untargeted and un-environmental crop insurance doesn't make sense."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) has proposed restoring basic conservation provisions as part of receiving crop insurance, so that the subsidy benefits environmentally sensitive lands, instead of making payments associated with practices that can be damaging.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla) are sponsoring the amendment to place limits on crop insurance subsidies.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY