Total government spending on farm safety net programs – including all commodity programs and crop insurance – dropped by two-thirds from fiscal years 2000 to 2012, according to data provided by USDA and the Congressional Budget Office. The reduction took place as spending on commodity programs – including direct, counter-cyclical, loan deficiency and other payments which once represented the lion’s share of safety net spending – has been slowly phased down in favor of crop insurance, which is partially self-funded through farmer premiums and farmer deductibles.  

In 2000, nearly $28 billion was spent on commodity programs and less than $3 billion on crop insurance. Over the course of 12 years, the overall amount of spending slowly but consistently fell and commodity spending and crop insurance spending equalized. In 2012, total farm safety net spending was $10 billion, and was split equally between the two.

During the same period, while spending on farm safety net programs dropped precipitously, the value of crop sales more than doubled, from roughly $93 billion in 2000 to nearly $220 billion in 2012. This exponential growth in crop values was cited by the Federal Reserve as one of the brightspots that brought the country out of the long recession, by bolstering rural America as well as giving a strong shot in the arm to U.S. exports.  

Moving forward over the next two years, crop insurance spending will be up in 2013, due to the 2012 drought, but still small in comparison to past disasters.  Beyond that, USDA projections show spending on commodity programs (even before sequestration and farm bill cuts) will remain flat at $5 billion, while crop insurance spending will decline from the 2013 level.    The Farm Bills proposed by both the House and the Senate will cut an additional roughly 10 percent from commodity programs and crop insurance.