The House Agriculture Committee is diligently working on a new Farm Bill, which Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) hopes will receive a vote in the House of Representatives before the end of March.
Conaway, who addressed the crop insurance industry’s annual convention yesterday, said that would leave plenty of time to work out differences with the Senate version of the bill and ensure new legislation is finalized before the Farm Bill expires at the end of September.
“We will have difficult decisions to make,” he said, noting that there is “no reason to put it off just because [the debate] will be hard.”
Conaway said the bill leaving his committee will include a strong crop insurance component, and he will work to fight off attempts to weaken crop insurance.
“Our mantra is ‘don’t screw up crop insurance,’” he explained.
Conaway’s support was music to the ears of crop insurers, who believe their track record under the current Farm Bill is noteworthy. Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services, outlined these successes during his opening remarks at the meeting.
“Farmers have spent nearly $15 billion in premiums since 2014,” Zacharias said. “They’ve also shouldered more than $30 billion in deductibles.”
Because farmers help pay into the system, taxpayers aren’t left footing the whole bill after a disaster strikes. That helps explain why crop insurance costs are below budget.
Congressional Budget Office projections for crop insurance are down nearly $10 billion since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted.
Zacharias said the industry has also invested heavily in improving efficiency and stamping out waste under the current Farm Bill.