Congress ought to sever the link between access to reduced-price crop insurance policies and the requirement to protect wetlands and highly erodible land, said the leaders of two major Minnesota farm groups on Monday. Federally subsidized crop insurance, now the largest U.S. farm support, is becoming the flash point in discussions about the 2023 farm bill.
Representatives of several lobbying groups testified Wednesday at a House hearing on crop insurance ahead of the 2023 farm bill, describing the program as one of the best tools available to protect farmers from crop losses, regardless of farm size.
Billions in taxpayer dollars could be saved over the next decade if the 2023 Farm Bill puts a cap on federal subsidies paid to farmers who purchase crop insurance, according to a special report published Tuesday by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Congress would dismember the farm bill if it adopted the ideas proposed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, whose membership includes four of every five Republicans in the House. In a budget package, the RSC said it would sever public nutrition programs from the farm bill, eradicate major farm supports and slash federal support of crop insurance.
The government paid a record $41.6 billion in a variety of subsidies to farmers in 2020, double the amount they received in 2018, when the Trump-era cash gusher began flowing, said the Environmental Working Group on Wednesday.
Concerned by rising production costs and the longevity of sky-high commodity prices, farm-state lawmakers floated margin protection for crop growers and standby farm disaster programs on Thursday for inclusion in the 2023 farm bill. However, farm bill funding may be tight, which could limit Congress’ ability to add new features to the farm program.
Federal spending on food stamps will rise by $24 billion this fiscal year, largely due to USDA's recalculation of the cost of a nutritious diet, said the Congressional Budget Office in a budget outlook that makes projections about the state of the federal budget and economy through 2032. The 18 percent increase in outlays would boost the cost of SNAP to $159 billion.
Taxpayers shelled out nearly $40 billion in crop insurance premiums in the Mississippi River region between 2001 and 2020, and that number is expected to increase sharply as climate change intensifies, according to an analysis of Department of Agriculture data by the Environmental Working Group that was released Wednesday.
For the second year in a row, farmers who plant cover crops are eligible for a premium benefit of $5 an acre on most crop insurance policies, said the USDA’s Risk Management Agency on Thursday.
Small farmers who sell their products locally are eligible for a new micro-farm policy, said the Risk Management Agency, which oversees the federally subsidized crop insurance system. The policy, which simplifies recordkeeping and covers post-production costs, is available for 2022 crops.
Congress traditionally enacts the farm policy bills covering the gamut from crop subsidies to food stamps at the urging of a coalition of farm, conservation and anti-hunger groups. A former USDA official said the 2023 farm bill could be in peril if there is a repetition of the political turbulence that temporarily derailed the omnibus legislation twice in the eight years.
After slowing with the collapse of the commodity boom nearly a decade ago, the conversion of grassland to row crops is accelerating in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, said the World Wildlife Fund.
When crop insurance indemnities and unemployment benefits are counted, the government sent $57.7 billion to farm operations and farm households in 2020, while the pandemic sent the U.S. economy into recession, said a working paper by USDA economists. It was the highest estimate yet of federal assistance to farmers last year and the most inclusive.
Economic concerns are often a driving factor when farmers decide whether to adopt conservation practices such as cover crops or diversified crop rotations, said the AGree farm policy initiative in a paper released on Wednesday. The paper called for more coordination of conservation practices with the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance system.
Farmers from Georgia to California told a House Agriculture subcommittee on Wednesday that the foundation of the 2023 farm bill should be the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance system. They also expressed interest in the creation of a standby disaster relief fund.
Robert Bonnie, named USDA climate adviser on the same day President Biden took office, will soon be in charge of all farm support programs, from land stewardship to farm subsidies and crop insurance, if confirmed by the Senate. Biden nominated Bonnie for undersecretary for farm production and conservation, arguably the highest-profile sub-cabinet post at USDA, on Friday.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reached back to his days as a governor to explain why the Trump administration proposed a 31-percent cut in crop insurance funding even if the plan has no traction on Capitol Hill.
This week's White House budget proposal to cut crop insurance by 31 percent and to tighten eligibility rules for farm subsidies would save less in 10 years than the administration spent to mitigate the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on 2018 and 2019 farm production, said an economist.