As the recent budget deal is interpreted and the Farm Bill debate heats up, important members of the House Agriculture Committee are singing the praises of crop insurance and underscoring its prominence as a necessary risk management tool that helps farmers weather adversity.
Both the Chairman and top Democrat on the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities & Risk Management – which has jurisdiction over farm policy and crop insurance – addressed the sugar industry’s annual conference – The International Sweetener Symposium – held July 29 until August 3 in Stowe, Vermont.
Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) outlined some key principles that should guide the writing of the 2012 Farm Bill. The first principle on his list was that the policy must not undermine federal crop insurance. “There is one thing besides faith in God that is keeping Texas producers afloat right now during the worst drought we have seen in years, and that is federal crop insurance. We cannot afford to mess that up,” he said.
The chairman went on to explain just how important a strong farm policy is right now. “Agriculture is the one bright spot in an otherwise grim economic picture,” he said. “We shouldn’t take it for granted and we certainly shouldn’t gamble with it. We need good farm policy. Good farm policy doesn’t cost a lot. However, what history teaches us is that bad farm policy costs too much.”
Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, gave crop insurance his own boost in the arm. Boswell recounted that when he retired from the army and returned to Iowa to farm, he quickly realized that farming had really changed in the 20 years that he had been away. He explained that in the old days, in order to farm, a producer needed access to land and a place to buy and sell a product, like a co-op or an elevator.
“After surviving the farm crisis in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I realized the importance of a good crop insurance agent to help me manage my risk,” said Boswell. “I work closely with my agent to ensure that I will never be put in a position that I was during the 1980s farm crisis.”
Boswell echoed Conaway’s sentiment that farm policies are important to ensuring the health and vitality of the nation as a whole. “I share this because I understand the importance of crop insurance in the country and safety net programs across the country that enable producers to provide for their families and feed those across the nation,” he said.
Joining the leadership in speaking out about the importance of crop insurance was Ohio freshman member Bob Gibbs (R), who is a farmer and also a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I believe that in this next farm bill, the vehicle to protect farmers from weather and price disruptions will be a viable crop insurance program,” he wrote in a recent op-ed in The Hill. “Crop insurance, along with other initiatives such as the ACRE program, can be tailored to reduce risk and protect the viability of our farming infrastructure,” he said.
Gibbs explained that in the next Farm Bill, Congress needs to ensure that risk management tools are in place to help farmers hedge their risks and in turn, ensures a stable food supply for U.S. consumers. “These programs provide farmers with some level of certainty and confidence as they make their management decisions to risk a tremendous amount of capital by putting that seed in the ground,” he said.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member and one of the lead architects of the 2008 Farm Bill, Collin Peterson (D-MN) recently said that there should be no changes to the crop insurance program in the upcoming Farm Bill. “I am against making any cuts in crop insurance…any changes in crop insurance,” he recently told a group of Minnesota farmers. He added that “crop insurance for me is the bottom line,” adding that he fears that at some point in time, it may be the only viable farm policy left.