Over the past few years, North Carolina and South Carolina farmers, including many CFSA member farms, have been impacted by hurricanes, flooding, drought, and late freezes.

Federal crop insurance with funding, structure, and delivery conducive to CFSA member farms is one of our top priorities in the 2018 Farm Bill. We’ve signed on to help push several policies and programs for inclusion or improving in the 2018 Farm Bill and are working with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on advocating for policies, programs, and funding conducive to our members.

The 2018 Farm Bill must modernize crop insurance to serve the diversity of American agriculture, support natural resource stewardship, reduce built-in distortions, and ensure efficient use of public funds. The summary of our crop insurance modernization priorities as developed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is explained below:

Americans rely on family farmers for the food on our tables, and we trust them to protect the lands they steward. Because of the important role farming plays in our lives and in our economy, it is in the public interest to help protect farmers against risk. We can do this in several ways, but one of the most impactful ways to create a strong safety net for family farmers is through federally subsidized crop insurance programs.

Federal crop insurance is a cornerstone of the farm safety net, but it must be improved to better serve all of America’s farmers equitably and use American tax dollars more efficiently. Currently, the federal crop insurance program excludes many types of farms and farmers, discourages sustainable practices, and encourages farm consolidation that further depopulates our rural communities. It also costs the public more than it should, yet does not provide much-needed transparency for evaluations and assessments of program performance.

For family farmers to successfully weather the inherent challenges of a life in agriculture, they need a federal crop insurance program that is more efficient, effective, and responsive to the growing diversity of the industry. Farmers deserve a federal crop insurance program that works regardless of what they grow, encourages their good land stewardship practices, and fosters a level playing field for all. In return for our support of the farm safety net, the American public deserves a crop insurance program that is as effective as it is accountable and transparent.

To make the federal crop insurance program more effective and efficient for farmers (and the American taxpayer) we must:

  • Expand access to serve all types of farmers based on their risk management needs.

    Availability of policies for specialty and organic crops is currently limited. Access for beginning farmers is also limited. Policies are not currently tailored to the diversity of American farms, which disincentives farmers to implement the practices that are best suited to the land and climate, causing low participation rates in many sectors and regions.

    Also, we must make Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) more flexible, to include more options, and incentivize those selling this insurance to educate farmers — and go through the WFRP paperwork with them — even if the farm may be smaller.

  • Expand options for beginning farmers by leveling the playing field for the diversity of family farms and ensuring efficiency.

    The current crop insurance program unduly influences markets and planting decisions and contributes to putting the land out of reach of beginning farmers and mid-scale farmers by allowing the largest farms to capitalize subsidies to bid land prices and rents higher. There is also little transparency in the program as to where $8 billion in funding is going. Means testing and premium subsidy caps, which have applied to Title I subsidy programs for decades, should be extended to the crop insurance programs. Transparency should be increased to allow the public to evaluate the use of public funding for the federal crop insurance program.

  • Actively promote conservation 

    Eliminate barriers to sustainable farming practices and linking higher premium subsidies to stewardship practices that protect our land, water, and health.

    The current program presents barriers to farmers that want to undertake conservation practices on their farms, disadvantages farmers who engage in conservation anyway, and incentivizes short rotations, and other risky practices. Cover crops and other NRCS conservation practices should be encouraged, basic conversation requirements should be updated, and incentives for conservation should be piloted while incentives for risky practices are eliminated.

  • Reform the structure of the crop insurance program

    Reform the structure of the crop insurance program so that it no longer provides unlimited subsidies that fuel farm consolidation or unduly influences farmers’ planting decisions, and improve the delivery of the crop insurance program to make it more transparent and efficient.

April 12, 2018

The House Draft Farm Bill, which was introduced on April 12th, has one win in terms of WFRP, yet the bill, if it passed as-is, would negatively impact smaller acreage, diversified, new and beginning farmers, as well as growers engaged in conservation activities, as it:

  • Eliminates the Risk Management Education Partnership program, which last year awarded 76 organizations with partnership agreements to educate farmers on how to mitigate production, financial, and other forms of risk on their farms. This program is particularly critical for educating farmers on the relatively new WFRP policy, which is targeted toward beginning, diversified, organic, and other producer groups currently underserved by the federal crop insurance program.
  • Fails to remove barriers to conservation and stewardship activities within the federal crop insurance program, which discourages farmers from engaging in conservation practices such as cover crops by threatening penalties or the voiding of their coverage.
  • Gives handouts to corporations and mega-farms by throwing out a 30-year-old rule preventing corporations from receiving unlimited commodity payments; also includes provisions to eliminate limits on loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains. As a further favor to large corporations, the bill also loosens the definition of family so that cousins, nieces, and nephews can be added as passive farm managers, thereby increasing farm subsidy payments to a single farm by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

We are thankful that the House Draft DOES include an improvement to the WFRP option:

  • Extends crop insurance discounts for beginning farmers with WFRP policies by changing the definition of beginning farmers for this purpose from up to five years in business to up to ten years in business, consistent with all the other USDA beginning farmer provisions. This change provides much-needed additional coverage support for beginning farmers using WFRP, because the program already requires users to have three years of revenue history before they can even purchase the policy.

We agree with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s perspective on the House Draft Bill.

For more information:

Questions? Want to Help?

Interested in supporting crop insurance reform by highlighting some of these points with your Congressional office? Reach out to Katie if you’d like to be involved!