According to a new study from the Environmental Working Group, a single Florida tomato and pepper farmer “(454362941)” benefited in 2011 from $1.9 million in crop insurance subsidies (p. 9). The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not reveal the name but it definitely is a very big operator, with at least nine separate farms in five different counties.
That kind of insurance break facilitates more intensive agricultural practices such as applying lots of pesticides, fertilizer, and water. How much water? According to the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, a very efficient tomato irrigation operation will still use from 1,000 to 3,000 gallons per acre per day. There is no good reason why a large corporate business irrigator should receive a $1.9 million break on crop insurance, any more than on the collision insurance for the trucks that move the tomatoes to the packinghouse. According to the GAO, limiting crop insurance subsidies to even $40,000 per farm would have saved up to a billion dollars in 2011.
This kind of agricultural subsidy should be ended in the new federal Farm Bill being drafted in Washington. It would make more sense for taxpayers and even the farmers. Growing row crops in a free enterprise system might prove to be much more enjoyable than grubbing for federal gold.