Washington news briefs, June 3

Washington news briefs, June 3
by Chris Casteel Published: June 3, 2012
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Group releases information about crop insurance payouts made in 2011

More than 400 Oklahoma farmers received taxpayer-funded subsidies topping $65,000 for crop insurance last year, with one receiving more than $500,000, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture information obtained by an environmental group.

USDA data released by the Environmental Working Group show that 177 Oklahoma farmers received more than $100,000 in government aid to buy crop insurance; of those, 13 received more than $250,000 and one received more than $500,000.

According to the group, Congress prohibited the USDA from releasing the names of the policyholders.

The Environmental Working Group, which for many years has supplemented its advocacy for lower farm subsidies with hard data about who receives them, has focused recently on crop insurance.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, also has been gathering information about the program. He requested a study by the Government Accountability Office, which reported in April that taxpayers could have saved $1 billion last year if premium aid for crop insurance had been limited to $40,000 per farmer.

The EWG study says that the subsidies, like other farm payments, are concentrated in the hands of big operations, while the vast majority receives modest amounts.

Last year, 26 farming operations in the United States collected subsidies topping $1 million; more than 10,000 received aid between $100,000 and $1 million. The bottom 80 percent of policyholders — 389,494 operations — received subsidies worth just over $5,000 in 2011, the group said.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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