How a Safety Net Became a Farm Policy Disaster: Principles of Reform
The Land Stewardship Project believes that our health and the health of our communities are directly connected to the health of our land and the food it produces. We believe that public policy and public resources should support the long-term stewardship of our nation’s farmlands, help family farms and rural communities thrive, and move us all, rural and urban, toward a sustainable food and agriculture system. Making these widely-shared values real in our country will require significant reform to our current agricultural system and the public (and corporate) policies that support and drive it.
Towards these ends, LSP members for three decades have engaged in developing, advancing and defending good public policy, with good results. Nationally, LSP has worked with organizational allies and Congressional and White House administrative leadership to achieve the passage and effective implementation of two very successful USDA programs: the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Develop- ment Program (BFRDP). Here in Minnesota, because of LSP’s organizing and the concerted action of thousands of citizens, our rights related to local control are strong and effectively exercised.
In turning our attention to the current system of federally subsidized crop insurance, it is clear that major reform is needed. As LSP’s three recent white papers — “Crop Insurance — The Corporate Connection,” “Crop Insurance Ensures the Big Get Bigger” and “How Crop Insurance Hurts the Next Generation of Farmers” — clearly docu- ment, the crop insurance system is either broken, or worse, manipulated to benefit the few over the many, and to facilitate the all-out exploitation of the land at the expense of good land stewardship. Meaningful reform of federal crop insurance demands a groundswell of action and attention from all who understand the importance of land stewardship, rural community prosperity and the success of the next generation of America’s farmers.
Over the next five years, as LSP works with allies to accomplish this major reform, these are the principles that will guide such work:
1. Major reform can and should be achieved.
We believe that the public interest is overwhelmingly on the side of major reform, while the interests of big agribusiness and the country’s largest crop operations stand against it. When we organize for change, people can still make a difference in our country. There is nothing inevitable or unchangeable about the current crop insurance system.
2. Reform should improve the broad public good, including thelong-term health and fertility ofAmerica’s farmlands.
Expenditures from the public treasury for federal crop insurance exceeded $40 billion from 2008 to 2012 alone. Prudence and integrity require that such huge sums be spent in ways that strengthen and support all American farmers, the communities that surround and support them, and the land itself — not just the inter- ests of a narrow band of insurance corporations, agribusiness corporations and the largest crop operations.
3. Reforms should be shaped by the people directly affected.
Just because the current crop insurance system has been taken over by insurance corporations and the largest producers of a few favored crops, doesn’t mean only their voices count. Federal farm policy, and the public money spent on it, affects everyone. The healthfulness and security of our food supply and the long-term health of the land are in the vital self-interest of all Americans. We all have a voice when it comes to bringing about reform.
Download the entire Principles of Reform document here.