October 17, 2006
Farmers often get paid twice by the government for the same disaster, once in subsidized insurance and then again in disaster assistance. This legal, but controversial form of double-dipping, has cost taxpayers nearly $24 billion since 2000, says the Washington Post.
- Farmers in Gaines County, Texas, collected nearly $66 million in the past five disaster bills.
- Cavalier County farmers in North Dakota, soaked by rain and floods, got $67 million.
- That money was in addition to $116 million that farmers in those two counties got in crop insurance payments.
- Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota collected nearly four of every 10 dollars of the disaster aid handed out in the past decade -- $3.8 billion in all.
- Farmers in those states also collected $5.6 billion from crop insurance.
Disaster payments to farmers are a public record but, by law, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) keeps the names of recipients of crop insurance confidential. Thus there is no way to count how many farmers have collected both and in what amount. However, interviews with farmers and government officials indicate that farmers who get insurance payments also get most of the disaster money.
But now, even some farmers believe the system must be changed. Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union says the industry group favors overhauling the present system to make it more rigorous while still targeting farmers in need. "What we have is a horrible public policy that needs to be fixed so we help farmers who truly have a need."
Source: Gilbert M. Gaul, Dan Morgan, Sarah Cohen, "Aid is a Bumper Crop for Farmers," Washington Post, October 15, 2006.
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