Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crop insurance fraud

Given that a Republican sits in the Presidency, which has the power of the veto, it is not easy for the Democratic leadership in Congress to pass legislation. Hence, one of the main consequences of the return to Democratic Party leadership in the Congress is heightened oversight from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Bloggers have been bubbling with enthusiasm for the committee's increased information sharing on its website, including new copies of hearing transcripts. To take a U.S. Food Policy example, here is Waxman's introduction to a hearing (.pdf) last Spring on crop insurance fraud:
The Federal Crop Insurance Program has become a textbook example of waste, fraud and abuse in Federal spending. Under this program, farmers received $10.5 billion over the last six years, but it has cost the taxpayers almost $19 billion to provide this financial protection to farmers. Over $8 billion in taxpayer funds have been used for excess payments to insurers and other middlemen. Somehow, about 40 cents of every dollar that the taxpayers have put into the crop insurance program has been for unproductive expenses.
Here's the full explanation of the problem with crop insurance (.pdf), from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.

Here's an interesting image and article from NASA last year, showing how satellite images of farmland can be used to prevent crop insurance fraud.

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