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Mountain West farmers have received more than $3 billion for crop losses since 2001

Hay stacks rolled and left throughout an open field. There is a tractor in the background, as well as several hills covered by foliage and trees.
Flickr Creative Commons
When a farmer has a reduction in crop yield or revenue, they receive money from the federal crop insurance program, which is supplied by both taxpayers and farmers.

Last year, federal crop insurance payments to U.S. farmers reached a record $19 billion. A new report shows most of that money went to only a small share of producers.

From 2001 to 2022, less than a quarter of the nation’s farms received payments for crop losses, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonpartisan advocacy organization.

The group found that a majority of that money went to large farms growing commodity crops – like corn, soybeans and wheat – in a handful of states. In fact, almost two-thirds of all payments went to producers in just 10 states.

Texas farmers received the largest share – 14% – for a total of more than $23 billion. Farmers in Midwestern states and California made up the rest of the top 10 list.

In the Mountain West, meanwhile, farmers received more than $3 billion during that two-decade span.

Anne Schechinger, an agricultural economist and author of the report, said many payments were for drought, flooding and heat, among other weather-related events.

“Because climate change is intensifying, we know that in the future, the costs for farmers and taxpayers will also be going up even more,” Schechinger said.

That’s why the federal crop insurance program, which is largely funded by taxpayers, has to be updated, said Schechinger, adding: “It needs to be encouraging farmers to do things like conservation practices that help them adapt to this extreme weather from climate change.”

She added that the upcoming farm bill is an opportunity for Congress to reform the program.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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