Everyone who eats should take a moment to thank 11 senators who proposed farm bill amendments designed to ensure that our farm and food policies help more farmers, the environment and the hungry at less cost to the taxpayer.
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., successfully led efforts to ensure that farmers who receive crop insurance premium subsidies take steps to protect wetlands, grasslands and water quality. Chambliss’ conservation “compliance” amendment is especially important at a time when high crop prices and unlimited insurance subsidies are encouraging farmers to plow up environmentally sensitive lands.
- Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., successfully led efforts to reduce crop insurance premium subsidies for the most profitable farm businesses by 15 percent. The Durbin-Coburn amendment recognizes that unlimited crop insurance subsidies – which have increased from $1.5 billion to $7.4 billion a year – have created an unfair playing field for family farmers.
- Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, successfully led efforts to cap “marketing loan gains” at $75,000 per farmer. But Sens. Jeanne Shaheen D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., were not permitted to offer their amendment to cap crop insurance subsidies at $40,000 per farmer – and generate $5.2 billion for deficit reduction. Likewise, Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska., and John McCain, R-Ariz., were not permitted to offer their amendment to allow U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify the recipients of crop insurance subsidies.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., offered an amendment to cut subsidies to crop insurance companies by $5 billion to restore cuts to nutrition assistance programs and to increase investments in healthy diets. Although Gillibrand’s amendment would have guaranteed crop insurance companies a 12 percent rate of return, her amendment was defeated.
- Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, successfully led efforts to increase support for local and organic foods. In particular, Merkley led efforts to ensure that organic farmers are treated fairly by USDA insurance programs, and Brown led efforts to restore funding for rural development programs that will increase local and regional food production.
In combination, these amendments to protect our environment, reform crop insurance, feed the hungry and expand production of local and healthy food establish a solid foundation for more sensible farm and food policies. Although one reform amendment failed and two important crop insurance reform proposals were denied a vote, the Senate for the first time was forced to debate the fate of the out-of-control crop insurance program – a debate that has just begun and that will continue in the House. We applaud these reform champions for their leadership.