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Mike's Blog

Insights from the President of ProAg

Who Are Those Guys?

by Mike Connealy on 07.20.2012

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid1969 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

We’re going back to classic movie lines for this week’s title and we’re going to do a little research on one of the main opponents of the US crop insurance program. For those of you that have not seen “Butch and Sundance” recently, they were trailed across South America by a posse that kept turning up despite their best efforts to elude them. Several times during this classic movie one of them would turn to the other and say “who are those guys”? Many times during this extended 2012 Farm Bill debate, MC asked himself about EWG, “who are those guys?”

We have all seen the anti-Farm Bill press which has attacked crop insurance even in the midst of the severe drought across the entire corn belt. The folks at EWG (www.ewg.org) are the loudest and least balanced of the many groups opposing conventional production agriculture and opposing anything (such as crop insurance) or anyone (such as Senate Ag Committee members) that supports the farm families across the USA. Let’s see what a simple Google search can uncover in order to know and understand the opposition.

EWG is a non-profit and non-partisan group headquartered in Washington DC. They take in contributions in order to continue their vigorous assault on US agriculture and especially against any sort of subsidy which might benefit the family farmer. They are supportive however of Food Stamps (SNAP) and were aggressively supporting Senator Gilliland (D) of New York in her recent ill-fated effort to cripple private sector crop insurance delivery in order to restore the modest Senate effort to reduce Food Stamp fraud, waste and abuse.

MC immediately questioned their non-partisan status and determined, via Google search, that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is also non-partisan. Apparently, in order to stay in good graces with oversight people, a non-profit group such as EWG or NRA merely need to indicate on their website that they are non-partisan.

In order to determine their funding sources, EWG on their website has provided a sample list of various foundations that have supplied their funding over the years. This group includes but is not limited to:

  1. McKnight Foundation
  2. Turner Foundation
  3. Barbara Streisand Foundation
  4. Civil Society Institute

The McKnight Foundation is headquartered in Minnesota. The McKnight Foundation represents the legacy of one of the founders of the 3M Corporation. The Turner Foundation is Ted Turner a media billionaire, Jane Fonda ex and famed buffalo rancher. It may not be a shock, all of these listed enterprises, providing EWG funding, lean a little bit to the liberal side (in the same manner as NRA leans a little bit to the conservative side) of the political spectrum. The spewing forth about global warming and etc. on their websites is considerable.

EWG first gained notice for me when they were able to tap USDA information and provide farm subsidy information by name. The recipients of these legal subsidies were apparently supposed to be shamed and shunned in their home communities, which ended up not happening. Even members of Congress were part of the EWG process of “naming names”. You can look me up in Hennepin County, Minnesota on their website. Their information on MC is only partially credible in that they say MC received a “conservation subsidy”. This is not true, the $$ in question in that column were for a Wetland Reserve program easement where some 90 net acres were taken out of production for 30 years. The EWG claims to support and promote the conservation reserve aspect of the Farm Bill. If so, why would they refer to CRP and WRP payments to participating farmers as subsidies ?

The 2012 Farm Bill debate started out with farm groups accepting the fact that direct payments were ending. This concession provided EWG with an opportunity to then re-direct their resources at ending the crop insurance program. They don’t wish to tweak it, they wish to end it. The fact that thousands of people would lose their jobs and tens of millions of dollars of investment in crop insurance infrastructure are involved is just mere collateral damage. They actually spew that these drought losses of 2012 are a direct result of global warming after all and probably caused by the same farmers that now receive indemnity checks from AIP. Their nonsense has no beginning and no end. Their number one “expert” in none other than renowned crop insurance opponent – Dr. Bruce Babcock from Iowa State University. Check out his drivel at:

http://static.ewg.org/pdf/babcock_cropinsurancesubsidies.pdf

or if the first one isn’t annoying enough try

http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/farm_bill/babcock_free_crop_insurance.pdf

EWG is active in twitter and social media. Their twitter feeds are handled by @DonEWG who tweeted the following for those still not yet sure of how this group leans:

www.ewg.org/agmag/2012/07/top-ten-reason-to-reject-the-house-farm-bill/

So, you now know something about an answer to the “who are those guys” question? They are not to be taken lightly and they seem focused on ending crop insurance as we know it today. This means that they are comfortable with taking away the livelihood of those of us involved in the crop insurance program plus causing chaos in rural communities that are protected by the program as it exists today. Hence, they are not to be considered nice people and those that support them via grants and donations are also part of this direct attack on our industry.

The crop insurance industry and the conventional agriculture industry need to have the courage to stand up and fight for our stakeholders, family farmers, agents, AIP employees, reinsurance companies, bankers, members of Congress, seed manufacturers and dealers, fertilizer manufacturers and dealers, crop dusters, custom harvesters, implement manufacturers and dealers, electricians, irrigation suppliers, precision ag vendors, pickup truck dealers, elevators, fruit processors, propane dealers, fuel delivery services, tractor tire dealers, grain haulers, ethanol plants, livestock feeders, poultry feeders, etc. Every group on this list is relying upon a strong private sector component to crop insurance in 2012 and will see the benefits of the program displayed in abundance during the drought of 2012. We cannot let fringe elements such as EWG take the discussion away from the facts about the crop insurance program to promote their distorted view of US agriculture.

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