Farm bill cements crop insurance as cornerstone of farm policy
Just days after the 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law, crop insurers gathered for their annual meeting to assess where the industry had come and where it is going.
One of the key architects of the Farm Bill, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, told the crowd that they began writing the Farm Bill three years ago with deficit reduction in mind and they kept that focus to the very end. She pointed out that key to taxpayer savings was the transition away from direct farmer payments to insurance policies that are purchased by farmers and serviced by the private sector.
"The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance … and they don't get help unless they really need it," Stabenow said, referring to the premiums farmers pay and the indemnities that are only received after losses are verified.
Stabenow told the crowd that in addition to the strong support among farmers that was evident during the writing of the Farm Bill, new coalitions would be needed to defend the policy from critics in the future. At the forefront of this effort will be the continued partnership with the conservation community.
National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) Chairman Tim Weber told the crowd that recent passage of the Farm Bill cemented crop insurance as the cornerstone of farm policy.
"If I had to sum up the story of the crop insurance industry in one simple statement, I think it would have to be, 'We've made a lot progress but our best years remain ahead of us,'" he said during his opening remarks.
Weber noted that in order for crop insurance to remain viable as farmers' primary risk management tool, the crop insurance infrastructure must remain financially strong, while the industry continues to focus on effective risk management tools and program integrity. Continued widespread participation will also be paramount.
"There can be no question that when it comes to managing the risks posed by Mother Nature or volatile world markets, federal crop insurance has no equal," he said, adding "this success was achieved all the while overall federal spending on farm programs has trended down."
Dan Wrinn with Ducks Unlimited (DU) explained that important relationships forged during the Farm Bill debate would continue well into the future. "We put this coalition together and it worked, but it doesn't end here," he said. "Our coalition drew a lot of attention [because people] saw what the potential was … if you get crop insurance, if you can get commodity groups, and if you can get the conservation groups to come together," Wrinn added.