When the U S Senate returns to work next week, it will finish debate on the Farm Bill. June will also see the House take up its floor debate. Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock is pleased Congress is finally working on a new 5 year Farm Bill, but warns it is still very early in the process. While crop insurance is at the core of the commodity title, Villwock says there are many urban lawmakers who do not understand the importance of crop insurance and want to cut govern funding even more which would result in higher premiums. He urged farmers to contact their congressmen and voice strong support for crop insurance, “Let them know what crop insurance meant to your operation in 2012. Could you have stayed in business without crop insurance?” He told HAT many growers would not have been able to get financing to plant the 2013 crop if it were not for crop insurance.
Before adjuring on Thursday, the Senate approved an amendment that would raise crop insurance premiums on the nation’s largest farmers. Indiana Senator Dan Coats voted in favor of this amendment. Villwock says this amendment would impact all crop insurance participants, “In all reality, if all farmers cannot participate in crop insurance, it does not work very well. For crop insurance to work, we need large participation in the pool so anything that would limit farmers’ ability to participate in crop insurance would hurt the program.” The Obama administration said last week it wants to see more cuts to crop insurance. The White House did not specify how large a cut it was seeking. In an example of Washington doubletalk, the White House also called for Congress to maintain the strong safety net farmers have now.
Senators approved the amendment by a lopsided 59-33 vote, in defiance of Agriculture Committee leaders. The move would save $1.3 billion over a decade by reducing the premium subsidy for growers with more than $750,000 of adjusted gross income. Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said she expected more attempts to rein in crop insurance spending before the Senate votes on the bill. One pending amendment would limit farmers to $50,000 a year in insurance subsidies. Stabenow said some farmers would find the reduction too onerous, coming on top of a requirement to practice soil conservation in order to qualify for subsidized insurance, and would drop out of the program. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who cosponsored the amendment, said farmers would still be getting “too much of a sweetheart deal” to drop out of the program.