Federal subsidized crop insurance has been a major fixture of US agricultural policies for the past several decades. In recent years, the program has expanded rapidly and now constitutes the largest and most expensive agricultural subsidy initiative in the United States. Similar programs have been introduced around the world. All these programs have one common denominator: Absent generous subsidies, participation is minimal. Such subsidies introduce the potential for a wide range of distortions. Intensive margin distortions may result from moral hazard as insured growers alter their production practices. Distortions at the extensive margin may arise as acreage decisions reflect the presence of subsidized risk management, resulting in lands with alternative uses being planted to crops. A range of environmental effects may arise as a result of these distortions. Not all those effects are negative, because subsidized insurance may result in less intensive use of chemical and fertilizer inputs. We review the history and operation of the current program and discuss the options currently being deliberated for future crop insurance programs.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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