The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has joined with a diverse group of 44 conservation, environmental, crop insurance and agricultural organizations in distributing a position paper that outlines a common-sense compromise to linking conservation compliance and crop insurance premium assistance and to opposing means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.
These recommendations have been submitted to leadership of the Senate and House Agriculture committees for their consideration for debate on the new farm bill. In a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, the organizations say the position provides “an effective farm and natural resource safety net.”
“Farm Bureau is convinced this agreement will move the farm bill forward,” says AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is a balanced agreement that provides fairness and a measure of certainty to farmers regarding the availability of risk management tools while at the same time helping to conserve natural resources. It’s a win-win situation that was reached by a group of organizations that came together under a banner of common-sense and collaboration.”
In the spirit of compromise and in the interest of completing a farm bill this year, each of the groups has committed to not support amendments beyond this compromise that might weaken the crop insurance program or amendments that might not link conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance, according to the letter.
"It is no secret that much of agriculture fought the compliance amendment during last year’s Senate debate on the farm bill,” Stallman explains. “But our desire to avoid a time-consuming and contentious debate with our long-standing partners on workable environmental stewardship programs helped build a consensus around rational provisions that protect farmers while furthering the conservation of natural resources.”
Stallman, a Texas rice farmer and cattle rancher, says it is important to note this agreement does not propose to change current conservation compliance requirements. The recommendations offered apply only to the linkage of conservation compliance and crop insurance premium assistance or availability.
Under the recommendations, crop insurance would continue to be available to help farmers manage their risks and meet the requirements of their lenders. But under certain circumstances, if a farmer is found to be out of compliance with conservation mandates, his or her eligibility for premium assistance would be eliminated until compliance conditions are satisfied.
“This approach to re-linking crop insurance and conservation compliance should provide USDA sufficient flexibility to work with farmers to ensure compliance in a balanced, fair manner,” Stallman says.