WASHINGTON — Extreme weather conditions linked to the climate emergency caused $118.7 billion in crop insurance payouts to U.S. farmers between 2001 and 2022, a new investigation by the Environmental Working Group has found.
Claims paid to farmers for the five most expensive weather-related crop insurance “causes of loss” — drought, excess moisture and precipitation, hail, heat and freeze — accounted for 73 percent of total crop insurance payouts in the 22 years of Department of Agriculture EWG data analyzed.
The EWG study, which the organization published along with an update of its Crop Insurance Databaseincludes an interactive map showing hotspots for climate-related crop insurance payments – regions where these losses have been particularly costly.
“EWG’s new report and hotspot map show that climate emergency and crop insurance are inextricably linked,” said EWG Midwest Director Anne Schechinger, agricultural economist, author of the report. “As extreme weather events become more frequent and more catastrophic, farmers will continue to suffer and taxpayers will continue to foot much of the astronomical bill.”
Weather-related crop insurance claims have risen sharply—more than doubling for each of the five causes of loss—over the past 22 years. Heating payments have increased more than 10 times.
Other highlights from the EWG analysis:
- Drought was the costliest cause of loss, costing $56.6 billion, or 35 percent of total payouts. Nearly three-quarters of all drought benefits — more than $41 billion — went to 10 states. In descending order, they are Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and Minnesota.
- Excess moisture and precipitation benefits reached $39.8 billion—25 percent of all payouts. More than half are concentrated in just six states: North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.
- hail payments totaled $9.65 billion, 76 percent of which went to farmers in seven states: Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota and Montana.
- Heat benefits totaled $7.98 billion, while I’m freezing payments were $4.74 billion. For both, hotspots include California, Texas, Kansas and Washington.
Some states were in hotspots due to multiple causes of weather-related losses.
Texas was in the top 10 states for each of the five, and farmers in the state received more than $15.5 billion for all categories combined.
Kansas and North Dakota were hot spots for four of the five causes of weather-related losses, and many other states, including California, Iowa and South Dakota, appeared in hot spots for three.
The hotspots the EWG has identified are also the places where agriculture may be most vulnerable to climate emergency as the crisis accelerates and the weather becomes more volatile.
USDA’s Crop Insurance Program Doesn’t Encourage Farmers to Adapt to Climate Change, EWG Says earlier analysis.
Another recent EWG report found that crop insurance benefits for all causes of loss – not just those related to weather – reached a record $19.13 billion in 2022, a huge increase from the $2.96 billion paid out in 2001.
“As the climate crisis continues to deepen, the cost of extreme weather crop insurance will almost certainly continue to rise,” Schechinger said. “The crop insurance program needs to be reformed so it works better for farmers, taxpayers and the environment.”
Although some crop insurance reforms could be taken at any time by the USDA, the 2023 Farm Bill provides an opportunity for lawmakers to make American agriculture more resilient in the face of extreme weather associated with the climate crisis and to reduce rising costs to taxpayers.
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique educational tools, EWG stimulates consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org For more information.