catastrophe is an invasion of locusts. The
occasional grasshopper is no problem, but
when massive swarms of locusts descend
upon a crop, eating the leaves, stems and
grain—or other fruit of the plant—an en-
tire farm can be devastated. It is a peril
that crop insurers must take into consider-
ation, and such invasions are not altogeth-
er uncommon. This year, we are supposed
to see the return of the 17-year cicada,
but it seems their worst foul is incessant
Hope Grim For New Farm Bill
Uncertainty over the size of crop insurance subsidies will be a key concern for the
insurance industry as a result of the House’s surprise decision on June 20, 2013 to
reject legislation to extend the farm program.
Significant Republican as well as Democratic opposition defeated H.R. 1947, the
Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, by a vote of 195:234.
The bill would have appropriated $940 billion in spending over 10 years, but both the
House and Senate bills reauthorize the Farm program for only five years. Authorization
for the current program ends on Oct.1.
A key issue for disaffected Republicans was an amendment introduced
by two Wisconsin representatives,
Democrat Ron Kind and Republican
Tom Petri, to reduce the crop insurance program by $11 billion. The bill
would have reduced administration
and operating reimbursements to
crop insurance carriers to $900 million
a year, compared to the $1.3 billion appropriated for the current year.
The Kind-Petri amendment was part of a package of amendments bundled together to cap the total value of crop insurance subsidies each farmer could receive
at $40,000 per year and eliminate premium subsidies for those who earn more than
$250,000. The amendment failed 208:217.
An annual $40,000 per farmer cap would have saved the federal government $1
billion of the $7.4 billion it spent on premium subsidies in 2011, according to the U.S.
Government Accountability Office.
“While we were disappointed that the House fell short in its attempt to pass a
long-term Farm Bill yesterday, we were happy that the House supported the [Fed-eral Crop Insurance Program] in voting down the Kind-Petri amendment, which
would have slashed funding for the program,” says Charles Symington, senior vice
president of external and government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents
and Brokers of America.
“The amendment’s failure reinforces the central role that the crop program and
independent agents play in protecting America’s farmland,” Symington says, adding Congress must find a long-term solution.
The R Street Institute, as well as 16 other conservative groups, supported the
amendment. R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, emphasizes the necessity of “significant changes” when the House
takes the bill up again.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that while the House bill would
increase federal spending on crop insurance by almost $9 billion over the next decade,
the Senate’s version passed on June 10 would increase crop insurance subsidies by
almost $5 billion over 10 years. The Obama administration threatened to veto the Farm
bill because of its price tag. By Arthur D. Postal, PropertyCasualty360.com
Locust invasions of historic proportion
have occurred throughout history. One of
the ten plagues of Egypt described in the
Old Testament was a plague of locusts that
destroyed the wheat crop. Drought, as in
the Joseph stories, was not the only threat
to grain, and ancient civilizations had
little in the way of insecticide to prevent
insect infestations. Caterpillar migrations
can devastate a forest, and tree disease
can wipe out entire species of trees or
plants, such as the Dutch Elm disease of
the 1940s or boring insects that can ruin
a pine forest, a major crop in many areas
of the country. Also, let us not forget that
lovely little pest known as the California
The Need for Crop Insurance
Urban dwellers probably do not consider the hazards of farming until there
has been a drought or insect infestation
that causes food prices to rise, which
may well occur if bees continue to decline. In today’s global marketplace,
animal diseases and insect invasions can
cross borders without checking in at the
immigration office or customs; they are
immune from any laws passed against
them. When I donate blood, the technician asks if I’ve spent time in certain nations— 6 months or longer in Britain or
even just a brief visit to Africa or Haiti.
Britain could pose a concern because of
Mad Cow Disease and the other nations
are associated with the AIDS pandemic.
My brother, when he was still alive
and living in Colorado, sold crop insurance. He provided customers with aerial
photographs of their land as a bonus.
One may not think of Colorado as a major agricultural state, but its eastern and
central parts are much like the Midwest,
and its southeastern corner was one of
the central parts of the Dust Bowl of the
1930s, largely because of farming methods that left the topsoil loose and free to
blow away. Northeast of Denver is sugar
beet country, one of the major crops of
There are both federal and commercial crop insurance programs, and farmers are well aware of the perils that can
trigger a major loss. A few plans even