When the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, Farm Policy Facts applauded lawmakers for preserving this cornerstone of the farm safety net—crop insurance.
The prioritization of crop insurance in the 2014 Farm Bill stands as a clear recognition that these tailored policies are playing the most integral role in farmers’ risk management portfolio, even as they have shouldered more than $12 billion in cuts since the last 2008 Farm Bill. Farmers pay significant premiums to purchase these policies which protect a large part of their risk, while protecting taxpayers at the same time.
But beyond this, the 2014 Farm Bill offered a little bit of something for everyone—even its traditional critics. Crop insurance is not meant to be an exclusive policy for corn, wheat, cotton and other traditional staple crops. Crop insurance is explicitly designed to be more inclusive and to allow the measured expansion to cover specialty crops, organic crops and even livestock. To this end, the Farm Bill expands on and directs the inclusiveness of the policy. Specifically, the Farm Bill:
- Allows the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to prioritize new crop insurance product applications, specifically giving priority to underserved commodities and regions.
- Includes special provisions for beginning farmers and ranchers that will reduce their premiums and allow them to maximize the yields and revenues covered by policies.
- Requires the FCIC to offer producers an organic price election for organically produced crops.
- Provides FCIC the authority to conduct research and development for a variety of new insurance products, including products for food safety, biomass products, poultry and whole farm crop insurance policies.
- Improves potential coverage by providing an option to purchase a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) crop insurance if enrolled in Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
The Farm Bill also places a renewed emphasis upon policy integrity, providing resources for the FCIC to ensure actuarial soundness and financial integrity.
The inclusiveness of crop insurance is one reason that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has spoken so glowingly about the policy.
“Today, crop insurance is the foundation of this Farm Bill and the farm safety net,” Stabenow said. “The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance … and they don’t get help unless they really need it.”
Unfortunately, some lawmakers are now angling to gut the new crop insurance policy before it’s ever had a chance to be implemented.
Stabenow’s counterpart with the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), calls such attempts foolish.
“The group in the Capitol Building that pushes this, stepping away from the members, are what I refer to as the professional environmentalists,” Lucas said in a recent interview with The Oklahoma Farm Report-Radio Oklahoma Network. “They don’t like crop insurance because they don’t like farming. So if you take away part of the safety net, you discourage farming.”
Lucas and Stabenow recognize that the 2014 Farm Bill was the product of four years of hard-fought battles and compromises. The improved and expanded crop insurance policy is a perfect example of the fruits of this hard labor, and the farmers and ranchers it is meant to serve deserve for the bill to be fully implemented.