Thursday, the Senate Ag Committee held a hearing on the impact of the 2012 drought and changes in crop insurance needed to better protect producers. Shelby County Indiana famer Anngie Steinbarger was one of the producers who told the committee that crop insurance saved their farm last year. She told the committee her corn yields only averaged 40 bpa. She and her husband Mike farm a 1500 acre corn and soybean operation and have used crop insurance as a risk management tool, “We find crop insurance an effective way to manage risk, especially in years when we have these weather events.” They started using crop insurance in 1991, and she said she has paid more into the system than she has received in payments, “Crop insurance is not cheap.” The Steinbarger’s have revenue plan 2 coverage with an optional unit structure and insure 80% of the corn yield and 70% of their soybean yield. She said their premiums average $38 an acre for corn and $20 per acre for soybeans.
She said, while the program works well, there are things that could be done to improve crop insurance programs to better serve producers. But most of all, she said continuing federal funding for the program is critical for the future of agriculture, “As you consider a new Farm Bill, I am very concerned that you maintain funding for crop insurance.” She added that direct payments to producers reward them regardless of their ability or desire to participate in risk management, “I feel with the crop insurance program if you want to play you are going to pay.” During her testimony, she highlighted her membership in the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
Steinbarger also noted her farm’s use of conservation tillage to reduce erosion and water use. “To manage our thin light soil types, we started our farming operation employing conservation tillage techniques such as CRP and NRCS cost share funding. To this day we still are advocates of no till farming as a way to preserve our soil and maintain soil moisture,” she added.
USDA economist Joe Glauber told the Senators that the crop insurance program is a great way to provide a safety net for American row crop agriculture. But other farmers who testified outlined changes that could be made to simplify the program and make it more flexible to fit individual operations. Livestock and specialty crop producers said the program needs to be expanded to meet the unique needs of these kinds of operations. Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said the committee would work to continue to improve the program and to pass a 5 year Farm Bill, “For those farmers who didn’t have access to crop insurance, or who relied on risk management tools that would have been included in the Farm Bill, the future is less certain.”
Steinbarger was the guest of Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, a new member of the Ag Committee. In his introduction, he thanked Steinbarger for taking the time to come to Washington and for their hard work and dedication to producing the food our nation needs. It was announced on Thursday that Donnelly will chair the Subcommittee on Commodities, Markets, Trade, and Risk Management. The Thursday hearing was the first meeting of the Senate Ag Committee as part of the 113th Congress.
For a transcript of her testimony, click here.