Farmers Tell House Ag Committee: “Do No Harm” to Crop Insurance

Illinois farmer John Williams told the House Agriculture Committee that he firmly believed the number one goal of the 2012 Farm Bill should be to “do no harm to federal crop insurance,” during his testimony at the second of four field hearings held across the country throughout March and April to gather input in advance of writing the 2012 Farm Bill. The hearing was held on March 23, 2012 at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois.

Williams told the panel that crop insurance was not only an indispensible risk management tool, but an important component of his business marketing plan. “Crop insurance is a safety net in a time of disaster but it also is an integral part of my overall marketing strategy,” he said. “Because of revenue protection insurance, I can market aggressively and still be protected against market shifts.”

Members of the committee listened to testimony from two panels of Midwest producers of corn, rice, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, specialty crops and beef. Several of the witnesses underscored the importance of developing policy that appreciates and recognizes the risks involved with growing food and fiber. They stressed the need for an effective safety net and a choice of risk management tools so farmers can continue to produce a stable food supply and compete in the global marketplace.

Minnesota corn and soybean farmer John Mages told the committee, “first and foremost, please do no harm to federal crop insurance, which should be preserved, protected, and strengthened.” Mages, who is also president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, added, “we strongly oppose any further legislative or administrative cuts to federal crop insurance, and we oppose carrying conservation compliance or other rules applicable to the Farm Bill over to this critical risk management tool that we as producers help pay for.”

Fourth-generation southern Ohio farmer Craig Adams, told the committee that he was the only Wilmington College agriculture graduate of 1979 still engaged in full time agriculture “because of the 1980’s farm crises, poor yields,18 percent interest, and no functional crop insurance,” at the time. Adams told the committee that “crop insurance in its current form is the most effective answer to short crop years,” and that “any producer who desires an effective risk management tool can purchase crop insurance.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) underscored the importance of the field hearings and the role they will play in writing the 2012 Farm Bill. “The field hearings give Members of this Committee a chance to hear how programs are working for our agricultural producers. There’s no better way to accomplish this than to visit with folks in the countryside. It’s important to understand how we can write policy that works for all of agriculture,” he said.

During the committee’s third field hearing focusing on major farm issues in the southeast, held on Friday, March 30, 2012 at Arkansas State University’s Fowler Center, some of the same messages continued to be heard. Chairman Lucas said, “Now, I know that crop insurance—while a valuable tool for many producers—doesn’t work as well for producers down here. That’s why offering an array of programs is important and why we must work with the Risk Management Agency to improve crop insurance products for rice, peanuts and other crops that do not have higher buy-up levels.”

Georgia farmer Tim Burch, who grows cotton and peanuts, and serves on the Georgia Peanut Commission, urged Congress to pass a five-year farm bill and when doing so, to not undermine crop insurance. He commented that while he hopes Congress makes improvements to crop insurance so that its coverage can include other crops, he also urged Congress to “not harm crop insurance products.”

The last hearing will be held on Friday, April 20, at theMagouirk Conference Center in Dodge City, Kansas.