The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that crop insurance remained an "experiment" until legislation passed in 1980 expanded crop coverage. Farmers paid at most 70 percent of their premiums, with the taxpayer picking up the balance. Premium support was capped at 30 percent of cost. Even so, big disasters triggered additional bailouts from Congress.
This cotton farmer, in a photograph from the early 1980s near Pecos, Texas, shows the devastation that drought visited on his once-fertile cotton fields.
Special Report: Doomed Crops, Record Profits