Perspectives in Ag: Tying conservation to crop insurance | TheFencePost.com

Perspectives in Ag: Tying conservation to crop insurance

Eric Brown
The Fence Post

The U.S. Senate's farm bill version includes language that would make crop insurance dependent on complying with conservation requirements.

On Thursday, when the House passed its own version of farm policy, such language wasn't included.

Some in the agriculture industry agree with tying conservation to crop insurance.

Others don't.

The National Farmers Union has put support behind it.

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has spoke out against it.

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Leaders of the House and Senate will soon come together in hopes of assembling a final bill, and tying conservation to crop insurance will be among the many issues at hand as the farm bill conversations continue.

Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

"We're against it, mainly because it just adds another layer of bureaucracy to the system," said Peppler, speaking on behalf of his organization, which represents farmers in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. "Farmers are already working with the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency. This would add to the mix the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and others. Some of these agencies are understaffed and underfunded.

"Additionally, a drought impacts farmers ability to comply with their conservation plans, which many farmers are dealing with right now. A farmer dealing with drought, and who falls out of compliance with his conservation plan because of that, could suddenly find that his entire crop is ruled uninsurable. That's unfair and unreasonable. Tying conservation to crop insurance could jeopardize a farmer's most valuable risk management tool."

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union

"As a whole, we decided it's something that's necessary," said Hansen, who, in addition to leading the Nebraska organization, also serves as the vice chairman of the Legislative Committee for the National Farmers Union. "Crop insurance — with its size and scope, and the dollars involved — has come under criticism and scrutiny in recent years, and we need to be doing everything we can to keep it in a positive light … to maintain support for it.

"Crop insurance is a critical tool for producers, and provides a needed safety net in times of disaster. Whatever's needed to protect it is what we need to do.

"In many cases, producers have conservation plans in place already, to meet requirements for other programs. Making conservation plans a part of crop insurance requirements, we believe, would impact few people."

"It's not often that we — the Nebraska Farmers Union — disagree with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. I think this is the first time in recent years that's happened."

Farm bills are the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government.

The 2008 farm bill was set to expire last year on Sept. 30, but lawmakers, unable to agree on the details of a new farm bill, extended it for a year.

If the House and Senate cannot come together on a bill, lawmakers could push for yet another extension of the 2008 farm bill that expires in September.

However, many farmers, ranchers and agriculture organizations describe some of the programs in the 2008 farm bill as outdated, and are ready to part ways with them.

Either way, more farm bill conversations are on the way, and tying conservation to crop insurance could be part of those talks.