Group releases information about crop insurance payouts made in 2011
WASHINGTON — 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
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.
The government typically pays about 62 percent of the cost for the insurance, and also pays the insurance companies for administrative expenses. According to the GAO, the total cost neared $9 billion last year.
Coburn and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, recently asked leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee to look for ways to save money on crop insurance. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has defended the program, saying limits on subsidies could discourage participation and threaten its integrity.
Vote set on judicial nominations
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations of two Oklahomans for federal judgeships. Robert E. Bacharach, a federal magistrate judge in Oklahoma City, has been nominated for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court.
John E. Dowdell, a Tulsa attorney, has been nominated for a U.S. district judgeship in Tulsa. Committee Republicans delayed a vote on those nominations and others on May 24.