Conservation compliance and crop insurance in new farm bill
The Agriculture Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill) links crop insurance premium assistance and compliance with wetlands and highly erodible lands conservation provisions. As part of the series explaining provisions of the new farm bill (available here), this post discusses the new conservation compliance provisions and requirements. As with other posts, the discussion below describes those provisions in the farm bill, final operation of compliance for crop insurance will depend on how it is implemented by USDA and updates will be forthcoming as needed.
Historically, linking conservation compliance to crop insurance was considered during creation of the crop insurance program in 1937 and 1938, however, it wasn't included as a requirement until the Food Security Act of 1985 (more history is available here). Under that bill's provisions, any person who produced an agricultural commodity on highly erodible land or wetlands became ineligible for Federal Crop Insurance. The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 removed the crop insurance provision from the statute, which effectively exempted crop insurance from the highly erodible lands and wetlands conservation provisions and requirements.
During consideration of the farm bill on the Senate floor in 2012, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) offered an amendment to re-establish the link between conservation compliance and crop insurance. Senator Chambliss' amendment sought to condition eligibility for any portion of the premium paid by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation on compliance with highly erodible lands and wetlands conservation in the same fashion as required for Title I commodity programs. The amendment narrowly passed the Senate by a vote of 52 in favor and 47 opposed (the vote is available here and debate on the amendment is available here). The 2013 version of the Senate farm bill contained a revised version of compliance for crop insurance and the conference committee modified it further before including it in the final version of the 2014 farm bill.
Conservation compliance is concerned with annual crop production on highly erodible land. It also seeks to address both conversion of and production on wetlands. Highly erodible land and wetlands compliance have historically (since the 1985 Farm Bill) been two separate components of compliance, receiving somewhat different treatment due to the conservation issues each seeks to address. They often have parallel or similar operational aspects as well and the new farm bill builds upon that existing structure.
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