The “era of direct payments is over for farmers,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek. “Farm subsidies could finally be on the chopping block,” says this recent article in the Baltimore Sun. Meanwhile the president of the ultra-conservative American Farm Bureau Federation was even quoted recently saying, “the public will no longer support direct payments to farmers.”

On the surface, all this sounds promising to those in the food movement who see government subsidies for commodity farmers as a systematic way to keep industrial and highly processed food cheap and plentiful. But in truth, headlines like these (which have been especially plentiful since the Senate Ag Committee began convening hearings and holding public meetings a month ago in an effort to draft the 2012 Farm Bill) speak more to the shifting rhetoric behind farm subsidies than they do to any real change in the big picture of American farming.

As we’ve discussed here on Grist, “direct payments” to farmers (i.e. subsidies farmers have collected based on historical production, regardless of commodity prices) are indeed going away. But they’re being replaced by another subsidy — government-supported crop insurance. And while “crop insurance” certainly sounds innocent enough, the term is being stretched beyond its traditional meaning. Like the name implies, some crop insurance does cover disaster relief, but the latest form also “insures” (mostly large) farms against revenue loss [PDF]. In other words, even a 5-10 percent revenue loss (due to weather or not), will be made up for with taxpayer dollars. And for the most part, we’re not talking small family farms or farms that grow fruits and vegetables, either.