In signing a farm bill that restricts the public’s knowledge of which corporations will benefit from it, President Barack Obama has traded transparency—something he vowed to bring more of to Washington—for politics.
The new law was heavily supported by large agricultural businesses, many of which will benefit from the extension of the federal crop insurance program.
But the media and ordinary Americans won’t know who will receive these subsidies because the legislation keeps this information hidden away.
While the bill was working its way through Congress, a bipartisan provision in it would have required lawmakers and the Obama administration to disclose crop-insurance recipients.
But the agriculture lobby convinced members of Congress to do away with this section of the law.
Lawmakers were inclined to listen to the agricultural services industry since it gave nearly $42 million in campaign contributions at the federal and state level and poured more than $62 million into lobbying Washington, according to Nancy Watzman at the Sunlight Foundation.
“Top recipients include Obama, with $474,000 and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, with $169,550. Donations last year to Stabenow, a fierce proponent of the program, include $10,000 from PACs associated with the American Association of Crop Insurers and $5,000 from the Rain & Hail Insurance Society. She has also gotten contributions from Michael McLeod, a lobbyist for the crop insurers trade organization,” Watzman wrote.
The cloak of secrecy that surrounds crop insurance first emerged in the 2000 farm bill, which was sponsored by then-congressman Rep. Larry Combest (R-Texas). Combest is currently a lobbyist, and one of his clients is—small world—none other than the Crop Insurance Professionals Association.
To Learn More:
Farm Bill Allows Congress To Keep Crop Subsidies Secret (by Nancy Watzman, Sunlight Foundation)
USDA Paid $36 Million in Aid Money to Dead Farmers for Four Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Congress Proposes Crop Insurance that Could Cost the U.S. Billions During Drought (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Crop Insurance Subsidizes Insurance Companies as Much as Farmers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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