Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kristi Noem Wants to Fight Fraud Unless It Benefits Her

We all know that Kristi Noem hates waste and fraud when it comes to the farm bill.  She said it herself after claiming victory for the first failed attempt at a farm bill in 2013:
 It’s important to examine the food stamp program and close loopholes in order to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse so we can keep the integrity of the program intact and ensure assistance goes to those who need it most. I believe we need to hold the federal government accountable to the taxpayers, and this bill is a step in the right direction.
It turns out that the one area that Mrs. Noem pushed for in a Farm Bill she claimed had her fingers all over was insurance subsidies:
Yet most of the estimated $50 billion that might have been saved on direct payments over 10 years — and perhaps far more, depending on commodity prices — was plowed back into other subsidy programs. As the Cato Institute’s Sallie James put it, what the proposed bills “offer with one hand, they take with the other” for programs that “are even more likely to distort markets.”
These include increased crop insurance and increased target prices for crops that guarantee farm incomes. According to the Environmental Working Group, crop insurance subsidies already cost taxpayers $9 billion a year, and flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest farmers and agribusinesses. While the wealthiest farmers collect over $1 million a year each in insurance subsidies, and 10,000 get over $100,000, the lowest 80 percent of policy holders collect on average just $5,000 each, according to the group. 
Okay, but at least Noem fights rampant waste right?  It turns out the one area in the farm bill that Noem made sure would increase is one of the worst areas for abuse is crop insurance fraud
Federal auditors who poured through the USDA’s crop insurance, disaster assistance and conservation programs have found that $36.6 million were disbursed to deceased recipients, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

The GAO report points to the biggest offender as the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which disburses crop insurance, as having issued $22 million in subsidies one or two years after a recipient’s death. 

The report has been released ahead of meetings in the House and Senate to hammer out a farm bill that may expand subsidies like crop insurance, and casts doubts on the Agriculture Department’s ability to weed out waste, fraud and abuse. 

The GAO itself states that findings "may call into question whether these farm safety net programs are benefiting the agricultural sector as intended." 
If you are poor and hungry, you are a fraud and a waste, but if you are a dead farmer: Here is your check!  Thanks for looking out for the people of South Dakota. 

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