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Website offers crop insurance information

Federally subsidized crop insurance is controversial. Now, with the U.S. Senate taking up the 2018 farm bill, a crop insurance trade group has launched a website that seeks to provide senators and others with state-specific information on crop insurance.

The interactive map at cropinsuranceinmystate.org offers information such as the number of crop insurance policies, acres insured, value of insurance protection, how much farmers paid for coverage, how much insurers paid to cover losses and hail protection coverage.

The site also includes 50 downloadable and printable fact sheets, as well as farmer testimonial videos and articles from several states.

"Crop insurance is a cornerstone to modern-day farm policy, and growers from coast to coast have called it their top farm bill priority," Tom Zacharias, president of Overland Park, Kan.-based National Crop Insurance Services, said in a written statement. "This site really shows, on a state-by-state basis, the success of crop insurance and why it's agriculture's most important risk management tool."

The new site augments an existing website, cropinsuranceinamerica.org, which takes a national look at crop insurance and the 311 million acres it protects.

Federal crop insurance seeks to protect farmers from "unavoidable risk" associated with bad weather, crop disease and insects. Taxpayers pick up some of the cost, and farmers the rest. Crop insurance policies are sold and serviced through private companies. The federal government subsidizes the program to keep it affordable.

Farmers generally support the program, which they say reduces the inherent risk in farming and helps to maintain the nation's supply of safe, affordable food.

Critics on the political right argue that crop insurance distorts the free market, while critics on the left complain that crop insurance subsidizes big corporate farmers with tax money that should be spent on social programs.

Congress is working on a new federal farm bill, the centerpiece of U.S. food and agricultural policy, and federal crop insurance is among the issues being considered.

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