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Senate cuts crop insurance subsidies

According to Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow, the next farm bill votes in the Senate will occur at 5:30 pm Eastern time on Monday, June 3. But Thursday, just before the Memorial Day break, Senators voted on three key crop insurance amendments.

One amendment that would’ve ended crop insurance subsidies altogether for tobacco failed 44 to 52.

94 senators voted in approval of another amendment from North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, authorizing use of the insurance fund to reduce fraud and maintain the integrity of the crop insurance program.

But the real news came from the last amendment of the day, sponsored by Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The Durbin-Coburn amendment would slash premium subsidies by 15% for farmers with an average adjusted gross income above $750,000. The Durbin-Coburn amendment passed with a 59 to 33 vote.

However, Stabenow urged Senators to vote against the Durbin-Coburn amendment. She said it would raise premium costs by 40% for the farmers it would affect, and would reduce the amount of acreage that must comply with federal conservation standards.

According to an analysis of the amendment from former USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins and released by the American Association of Crop Insurers Thursday, the affected farmers would be looking at a 37% increase in the cost of their premiums if they are buying 70% coverage because the amendment would reduce the government’s premium support by 15 percentage points. A farmer purchasing 50% coverage, according to the analysis, will see a 45% increase.

The vote for the Durbin-Coburn amendment wasn’t just a defeat for the crop insurance industry; it also dealt a blow to the coalition of farm and conservation groups that reached the agreement in the Senate to link crop insurance to conservation compliance, with no income restrictions on subsidies.

Senators did not add an amendment to the farm bill to give states clear authority to require labels on food or beverages made with genetically modified ingredients. It failed with a vote of 27-71.

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