When Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill in 2007 that would have gutted U.S. farm policy and put American jobs at risk, the outcry from the agricultural community was swift and fierce.
A campaign backed by farmers quickly labeled their plan “Kinda Flakey” and highlighted the disastrous effects it would have on commodities and rural communities from coast to coast.
By the time the Kind-Flake amendment reached the House Agriculture Committee that summer, lawmakers had picked up on the outrage.
“It’s kind of a flakey bill,” said then Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), during the debate, according to Delta Farm Press.
He was right. The proposal would’ve cut more than $20 billion from policies farmers depend on to deal with their unique risks.
Seventy-nine rural organizations sent lawmakers a letter to point out that Kind-Flake was “mistakenly being marketed as ‘reform’ when it is nothing more than ‘repeal.’” Economic studies even surfaced showing the huge economic blow the bill would deal to agriculture.
Within days, the amendment died in a decisive 309-117 vote on the House floor, with 158 Democrats joining 151 Republicans to shoot down the proposal.
Unfortunately for farmers, the attacks were only beginning, and legislation to impair U.S. agriculture’s ability to compete on a global scale has become a reoccurring event.
For example, the Kind-Flake duo cooked up a similar plan, dubbed the AFFIRM Act, during the 2014 Farm Bill debate. Like its predecessor, that attempt was widely panned in rural America and was defeated in a bipartisan manner on the House floor.
Fast forward to 2015, and Flake was still at it – this time as a United States Senator.
In a closed-room meeting, Flake attached a plan to cut funding for crop insurance to an unrelated appropriations measure. When light was finally shone on the scheme, the Senate defeated it 77-22.
Farmers’ rallying cry during that debate was simple: You’re either for farmers or against them.
It’s a simple but appropriate description because these amendments have become referendums on lawmakers’ support of rural America.
This Farm Bill has been no different. As the House considered its package, all eyes were on two amendments. One, a bill to gut the country’s sugar policy, and another, to repeal most of the farm safety net. Both anti-farmer measures lost in a bipartisan landslide.
Now as the Senate is set to vote on the Farm Bill, new amendments will likely serve as a litmus test to show Senators’ support for farm country.
Sugar is a target once again, and so is crop insurance. And farmers will be working together to defeat both possible amendments.
The crop insurance attack, for example, was recently referenced in a joint letter to the Senate that was signed by more than 600 farm organizations and rural businesses.
“Crop insurance is food and fiber security insurance, and food and fiber security is national security,” the letter explained. “Given the importance of crop insurance, the undersigned organizations urge you to support America’s farmers, ranchers, rural economies and national security by opposing amendments that would harm crop insurance.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is expected to offer one amendment that would make insurance protection less available by excluding many people who have large farms, grow high-valued crops or work off-farm jobs.
The crop insurance industry explained why an arbitrary income means test like this would be such a bad idea in a recent video.
“Crop insurance is like other kinds of insurance, the more people it covers, the more people there are to shoulder risk. And the more people there are to shoulder risk, the cheaper coverage is for everyone,” the video noted. “Remove participants, and things get riskier and more expensive.”
Especially when those participants are among the least risky in the insurance pool, as is the case with most larger farm operators.
“It’s kind of like preventing the safest drivers from getting auto insurance,” the video concluded. “The result would be an expensive wreck for farmers and taxpayers.”
In other words: Making it harder for farmers to manage risk during today’s down economy is still “Kinda Flakey.”