Keep budget negotiations out of Farm Bill debate
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President Trump won 70 percent of the rural America vote, helping him to secure his seat in the White House. Many of these voters were farmers, who are now calling upon the president to reevaluate his FY2018 budget which, if implemented via the Farm Bill or appropriations process, would hurt rural areas of the country that strongly supported the president.

This will be my fourth Farm Bill and throughout my experience, I have seen first-hand how the federal crop insurance program is the most important risk management tool available to producers. Farmers need a safety net and an effective risk management system, particularly when prices are low and when disaster strikes.

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The Farm Bill debate should occur during the reauthorization discussions in the House and Senate Agriculture committees and not the annual budget process. If the president is serious about improving the rural economy, it’s disappointing that he would propose policies that would have such a terrible impact on American farmers.

The recent late season blizzard in the Midwest, proves that Mother Nature is unpredictable. In Kansas alone, 40 percent of the state’s wheat crop was impacted by more than 15 inches of snow. These same growers’ crops are now being hit with the wheat streak mosaic virus.

According to the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, many acres in west-central Kansas are severely diseased and could experience more than 70 percent yield loss, if not a complete loss. These conditions, combined with historically low prices, are causing real stress out in wheat country. The safety net provided by the 2018 Farm Bill isn't going to make a farmer wealthy or even guarantee a return on their investment, but it does give farmers the ability after a disaster, crop failure, or weak market to farm another year. These are real-time examples of why we need to have a stable crop insurance system in place.

Just like any other type of insurance program, producers must pay a premium and they only get an indemnity payment when they suffer a loss. More and more farmers from across the country are joining the crop insurance program, proving that the current structure is working. This large participation means that risk can be spread across a lot of acres. Should Congress attempt to reduce the federal cost-share or restrict participation, risk would then spread over less area, increasing premiums for all producers, big and small, causing them to lower their coverage.

The president’s FY2018 Budget seeks $28.56 billion over 10 years in cuts to crop insurance programs. These cuts will weaken the Farm Bill and are a short-sighted approach to deficit reduction. In fact, the Farm Bill reduces government spending. At time of passage, the 2014 Farm Bill is estimated to reduce spending by $23 billion over ten years. Further, the Congressional Budget Office’s 2017 baseline estimates that the 2014 Farm Bill costs far less than projected and is going to save the federal government $100 billion. Producers are facing some of history’s toughest economic conditions and gutting this critical piece of legislation would only put another hurdle in the path of producers already struggling.

Much has changed since Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill. The political, policy, and economic dynamics facing Congress are much different this session. Producers are hurting economically with net farm income is at its lowest since 2009 and a multiyear slump in commodity prices. Natural disasters are becoming more unpredictable and harder to prepare for, requiring farmers to have access to a strong federal crop insurance program. Over the coming months, NAWG will be actively working to make sure that Congress doesn’t enact these short-sighted cuts that directly swipe at American agriculture.  

Chandler Goule is CEO of National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG)


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.