A pair of Cooperstown, N.D. brothers have been convicted in a $2 million scheme to defraud the federal crop insurance program with false claims of loss on their potato harvest.
In convicting the brothers, Aaron and Derek Johnson, jurors relied on the testimony of a former farmhand who claimed that he had conspired with them to intentionally destroy the potato crop, as well as neighboring farmers who asserted their own potatoes made it through the harvest unscathed.
The brothers were accused of adding spoiled and frozen potatoes to the stored crop and using portable heaters to warm the warehouse above 80 degrees, in attempt to make the potatoes deteriorate faster. The defendants, prosecutors said, found that the best way to wreck the crop was using Rid-X, a chemical that’s designed to dissolve solid materials in septic systems.
Just as a reminder, the federal government subsidizes roughly 62 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premiums, at a cost of about $9 billion annually. Earlier this year, Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed a five-year, $1 trillion farm bill, including a massive new “shallow loss” insurance program (at no cost to farmers) that locks in record-high prices for commodities like corn and soybeans.