US 2011 Crop Insurance Payouts at Record $9.1B

Crop insurers paid out a record $9.1 billion in indemnities on 2011 U.S. crops, and the total could top $10 billion when all claims are settled, due to damage from drought, flooding, and freezing weather, a trade group said on Tuesday.

The previous record was $8.7 billion in 2008, said National Crop Insurance Services, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

Crop insurance, which is subsidized by the government, is expected to be a key point in the pending overhaul of U.S. farm law. The cost of the program has more than doubled in a decade.

Drought in the U.S. Plains, spring flooding along the Mississippi River and crop-damaging freezes in the South were factors in the new record, said NCIS.

The popularity of revenue policies also plays a role, coupled with high commodity prices. More than 90 percent of policyholders opt for higher levels of coverage. Crop insurance is subsidized and overseen by the Agriculture Department.

Fifteen companies are approved by USDA to provide coverage on 2012 crops. They include John Deere Insurance Co and Agrinational Insurance Co Inc, a branch of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.

(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)