When Congress passes disaster bills, the government commonly compensates growers for loss of crops and livestock with the proviso they buy crop insurance in the future so they are protected against catastrophic damage. Companion bills filed by Democrats in the House and Senate would go a step farther by giving farmers the money to pay for the policies — a "terrible" expansion of the federally subsidized program, says a small-farm advocate.
Farmers would pay a far larger share of crop insurance premiums — 52 percent instead of the current 38 percent — under the fiscal 2020 budget proposed by President Trump on Monday. The White House also wants to deny farm program benefits to people with an adjusted gross income above $500,000 a year vs. the current cutoff of $900,000 AGI.
Late this summer, growers will get their first chance in years to switch between the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage subsidies, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told lawmakers last week. During testimony at two hearings, Perdue also said the USDA would hold a "general" sign-up for the Conservation Reserve before the end of the year.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the only lawmaker to chair the Senate and House Agriculture committees, will retire in 2020 after four decades in Congress. Roberts was the author of the landmark Freedom to Farm law of 1996 that removed most federal controls over what crops farmers grow.
Congress is expected to send President Trump a farm bill this week that makes nieces, nephews and first cousins of farmers eligible for crop subsidies, a setback in the decades-old drive to control farm spending. Farm groups learned of the decision ahead of the formal release of the final version of the bill. House and Senate negotiators signed the so-called conference report on Monday, the first step toward a final vote on the $87 billion-a-year bill.
Under orders from President Trump to cut spending by 5 percent, the USDA may try to slash the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance program, eliminate a green-payment program, or take an ax to its research agencies, if recent proposals are any indication.
The USDA announced a new insurance policy on Wednesday to shield dairy farmers from unexpected declines in revenue from milk sales. The insurance “will bring an extra level of support to a dairy sector that has been battered by losses over the past four years,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Nearly 11 months after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas, the USDA said it will pay up to $900,000 in disaster relief to producers who suffered losses due to hurricanes or wildfires last year.
The Senate farm bill will clamp down on payments to so-called managers who live in town and exercise little control over farm operations, announced the leaders of the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. Still to be resolved was a proposal to make the wealthiest farmers pay more for federally subsidized crop insurance.
In a procedural vote, senators indicated strong support on Monday for the bipartisan farm bill written by Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, voting 89-3 to open debate on the $87-billion-a-year legislation.