Don’t fix what isn’t broken. That’s the approach federal lawmakers should take when they write the crop insurance title of the 2023 farm bill, according to representatives from national ag groups.
“The really important thing to our members is to make sure that crop insurance survives the way it is,” said American Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Scott VanderWal. “Maybe we can improve it some, but the bumper sticker message on crop insurance is ‘Do no harm.’”
VanderWal, who joined a panel discussion Tuesday at the 2022 Minnesota Farmfest, emphasized crop insurance is “so incredibly important” for farmers because “you don’t buy insurance for good times, you buy it for the bad times.”
Tom Haag, first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, agreed, calling crop insurance “our best safety net” that “works” and shouldn’t “be messed with.”
The discussion around Title 11 comes as policymakers consider whether to expand programs, tighten their scope and eligibility or codify a permanent disaster program stemming from a series of ad-hoc programs implemented by USDA since the 2018 legislation.
Many ag groups, including Illinois Farm Bureau and AFBF, are opposed to the latter policy idea.
AFBF is also “very opposed” to proposals to tie crop insurance rates and premium discounts to conservation and climate-smart ag practices, which VanderWal said could “damage or mitigate the tendency of people to use it.”
“The more people that use crop insurance, the better off it is because you’ve got more skin in the game,” VanderWal added.
Some ag insurance experts shared that same view at a House Ag Committee hearing in July, explaining that setting those requirements to enroll in insurance and other risk management programs would lead to less participation and ultimately higher rates.
Voices from the livestock industry on the panel said current ad-hoc relief programs tied to disruptions from COVID-19, like the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) need severe adjustments.
“We just had the (SMHPP) payments released like a week ago that are two years old,” said National Pork Producers Council President Terry Wolters. “If you were in trouble financially two years ago, that program doesn’t even come close to stepping up and helping you.”