Drought Ups Crop Insurance Costs

The recent drought that plagued farmers across the country this summer could end up doubling the price tag for federal crop insurance programs, some economic analysts say, intensifying the upcoming debate over farm spending and the farm bill.

Despite grandiose plans to plant and harvest the largest corn crop in nearly a century, this summer saw farmers reeling from ongoing and severe drought conditions that hit almost every part of the country. By the height of the drought, more than two-thirds of the United States was experiencing some form of drought conditions and more than 1,000 counties had been declared disaster areas.

The severity of the drought devastated crop production. Some farmers simply abandoned entire fields, preferring to plow under withered crops rather than attempting to salvage a handful of healthy plants. The intensity and scope of the drought, along with the scale of the damage it caused, would have bankrupted countless farmers if it weren’t for federal crop insurance programs.

While these programs did much to protect the farm economy, they are also likely to rack up a hefty price tag. Early estimates suggest that taxpayers could be on the hook for about $15 billion, more than twice the normal cost for crop insurance.

The high cost of the program, combined with the fact that some farmers are seeing record profits despite the drought, may complicate farm bill negotiations this fall and could embolden some budget hawks to push for deeper farm spending cuts.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer