Crop Insurance Set to Expand Despite Growing Fraud Worries
Brown, a private contractor based in Missouri, is an expert in image analysis who has been investigating crop insurance claims for nearly 20 years, working with prosecutors and the USDA.
Using technology adapted from the medical field as well as a store-bought GPS, he analyzes satellite images to detect signs of fraud. Brown helped crack the case of Robert Warren, the farmer with the ice cubes in his tomato field.
He says he knew long before he visited the farm that something was amiss. In the satellite view, the color red represents not tomatoes but chlorophyll. The satellite images showed Warren had not planted nearly the amount of tomatoes he had claimed.
“All I saw was a sliver of red on the field and that was clear evidence that these people were pulling a scam.”
Brown says he is surprised the government is considering expanding crop insurance without adding more resources to fight fraud.
“Obviously if there’s more money available, there’s going to be more people out there that’s looking for loopholes and schemes to take advantage of that money,” he said. “It’s going to take more people in the field, more agents, more people in the risk management agency, more people on task force, more people with satellites.”
Now that the Senate passed its version, the House will begin working on its version next month. The current law, which governs all federal agriculture policy including nutrition assistance and food stamps, expires Sept. 30.
- By Scott Cohn | CNBC Senior Correspondent
- Additional reporting by Michael Tomaso