November 6, 2013
Thirteen Senators have delivered a letter to Senate Farm Bill Conferees calling for a final farm bill to include provisions that will help make crop insurance appropriate and accessible for a wider range of producers.
In the letter, the Senators stress that:
Specialty crop growers, organic producers, diversified operations, and young and beginning farmers, who have traditionally been underserved by federal crop insurance, deserve access to affordable and sufficient risk management tools that are on par with what is available for commodity producers . . . [I]t is important to prioritize and support federal crop insurance products that address these underserved commodities, inadequate coverage, and low participation.
The letter highlights the need for a whole farm revenue insurance product for diversified farms because the current system of insuring crop-by-crop does not work for highly diversified operations, including many sustainable and organic farms. Both the Senate and House farm bills direct USDA to establish a whole farm revenue product that will work for a wide range of diversified operations, be available nationwide, and include a crop and enterprise diversification bonus.
In addition, the Senators urge that crop insurance not put organic farmers at a competitive disadvantage. Currently, when organic farmers experience crop losses, they are compensated at the lower rates of non-organic products. This makes crop and revenue insurance a bad bargain for organic farmers. The Senate farm bill levels the playing field for organic producers by directing USDA to develop a full organic price series within two years. This provision is missing from the House farm bill.
The letter also supports a provision in both the House and Senate farm bills that would restores the Risk Management Agency’s authority to conduct research and development activities to improve existing products and develop new ones.
NSAC commends these Senators for their commitment to supporting a farm safety net that works for all producers. While we do not believe the proposed new farm bills go nearly far enough in reforming crop insurance, we can at least feel good about these initial efforts to begin to level the playing field for the farmers we represent.
Joining Senator Merkley (D-OR) on the letter were Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Kirsten GIllibrand (D-NY).