Last year, at the height of the drought in Missouri, I wrote about Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s Executive Order authorizing government assistance for water sharing and distribution to farmers affected by the drought. I argued that the government should not be spending public money to assist those who already have (publicly subsidized) crop insurance.
Fast forward to today. One might think that due to the drought, farm incomes would be seriously hurt. However, that is not what happened. According to a recent survey (hat tip: St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that the St. Louis Federal Reserve released, farm income for the last quarter of 2012 was either on pace to match that of the previous year or even increase. A Kansas City Federal Reserve report had similar findings. The reason incomes did not fall: “Many bankers cited the effect of crop insurance in alleviating the expected negative impact of the drought.”
So, these farmers did not really need all that extra help last year. Their insurance was enough to cover their losses. I am glad that was the case. However, if many farmers are making more money after the drought than before it hit, couldn’t they afford to pay a bit more for their insurance premiums? Currently, taxpayers heavily subsidize crop insurance premiums.
I am not advocating eliminating crop insurance. However, cutting back on public support for crop insurance is a good idea. According to one Government Accountability Office report, a 10 percent reduction in government subsidies would have saved the taxpayers $1.2 billion in 2011. Buying insurance is meant to help prevent catastrophic losses, it is not meant to make you money. The government should reduce its commitment to paying for insurance subsidies; it seems the farmers can afford it.