November 23, 2005
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon is concerned that Missouri farmers may not be covered by a federal crop insurance program if their crops along the Missouri River are flooded by artificial "spring pulses" planned in 2006 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To protect Missouri's interests in management of the river, Nixon has long opposed in court the Corps' spring rise plan.
Nixon has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (RMA) to clarify that the insurance program would cover losses if water were released from an upstream Missouri River dam in March and May 2006 by the Corps. Nixon says the agency should not exclude any such losses from coverage under the program.
"The irony is that the Corps' planned releases of water next spring are supposed to mimic natural rises, but that Missouri farmers may not be protected by their insurance policies if they're flooded because the rises are manmade," Nixon said. "I want assurances from the USDA that the farmers who are paying millions in crop insurance premiums to the federal government will be covered if their crops are flooded due to actions caused by that same government."
The Attorney General says provisions in the insurance program could be construed to exclude coverage from crop losses due to the spring rise because they may not "be due to a naturally occurring event." More than one million acres of Missouri farmland insured under the program are located in the Missouri River bottom.
Nixon said over the past 15 years, Missouri farmers paid more than $800 million in crop insurance premiums. During the same time, the Risk Management Agency paid claims for losses of about $477 million to Missouri farmers.
"Given the mission of the RMA to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America's agricultural producers through sound risk management, the RMA should not exclude such losses from coverage," Nixon wrote in his letter. "Losses caused by the activities of other federal agencies in an effort to 'mimic' nature and to comply with national goals contained in federal legislation like the Endangered Species Act should not be borne by the landowner alone, but instead shared by all taxpayers as part of the RMA's mission."
"This is a vitally needed program for Missouri farmers, but they need to have confidence in the coverage," Nixon said. "I'm asking USDA to assure farmers they'll get the coverage they're paying for."
Through his Agriculture and Environment Division, Nixon has long advocated Corps management of the Missouri River that would protect the state's agricultural, transportation, flood management and drinking water needs. In 2003, his office won a victory at the federal appeals court when the court found that the primary functions of managing the river and its dams were flood control and navigation and that other purposes were secondary.