November 19, 2013
Last week, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Jon Tester (D-MT) delivered a letter to farm bill conferees urging them to reattach soil and wetland conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies. The Senate farm bill takes this step, however the House farm bill does not.
According to the letter, “the public perception that crop insurance participants should be allowed to participate in this program under different and less restrictive rules than participants in other federal farm programs is not defensible and is detrimental to keeping Congressional support for crop insurance sustainable.”
Federal crop insurance is the only farm support program that does not require basic soil and wetland conservation in return for taxpayer subsidies. It is also the largest farm support program and has grown tremendously over the last several years.
Recall that late last month, nearly 300 organizations urged farm bill conferees to include these conservation requirements in the final farm bill conference report.
In addition to the Fortenberry, Thompson, Thune, Tester letter last week, seven former Chiefs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mirrored this message in a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. The Chiefs, whose service covers five presidents back to the Reagan Administration, urged the leaders of the Agriculture Committees to apply the same conservation requirements to all income support programs, including eligibility for crop and revenue insurance premium subsidies.