Farmer Safety Net Reformed on Senate Floor

June 21, 2012 Bookmark and Share

NAWG worked with grower members, its member state associations and in coalition with other groups to urge favorable positions on many of the amendments discussed by the chamber this week.

A notable crop insurance amendment that NAWG supported included the requirement to use plain language in crop insurance paperwork, which passed with a voice vote. Additionally Senators defeated an effort to restore funding to food programs by cutting USDA reimbursement to crop insurance companies, which was already reduced in the recent renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement.

However the program, which farmers and their bankers testify as the most important safety net, suffered significant setbacks.

A majority of the Senators supported the effort by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to return crop insurance to the failed policy path of pre-1995 to reestablish additional regulations on crop insurance by requiring farmers who purchase crop insurance to comply with conservation requirements.

Following the lead of Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) the upper chamber proposed to penalize wealthy farmers’ utilization of the public-private program intended to spread risk across a wide array of users, without any understanding of what the effect will be on actuarial soundness for all crop insurance purchasers.

The chamber also agreed to increase the minimum level for Title II nonemergency food aid programs as proposed by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

They also agreed to limit marking loan gains to $75,000 per farmer as brought forward by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Efforts were defeated to diminish Market Access Program  (MAP) funding and programmatic flexibility. Export market development programs, such as the MAP and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, which are essential to the wheat industry’s efforts to increase exports abroad.

The attempt to reduce the adjusted gross income levels required to participate in title one farm programs were thwarted as the committee-passed legislation had previously, significantly reformed these levels.

In what was categorized as a non germane amendment taken up by the Senate this morning, an effort by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) to allow states to mandate labeling of food products made with biotech ingredients was defeated by 26-73 vote.

This amendment would have undermined the strong U.S. regulatory program that helps ensure that all foods are safe to be marketed and labeled appropriately and would have resulted in costly and extreme food labeling requirements.

In addition, farmers across the country can be reassured the effort to prohibit commodity check off programs failed. These decade old programs initiated by farmers themselves have proved successful in delivering research, marketing and educational benefits to farmers and the entire agriculture value chain.

Not included in the list of amendments considered by the Senate this week was a NAWG supported effort from Senators Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to overturn a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held that the application of a pesticide was a point source of pollution requiring a Clean Water Act permit.

A letter signed by NAWG along with every major commodity organization, and many of NAWG’s state associations, was sent late last week and stated in part that “we believe that the Court got it wrong regarding Congress’ intent, and we urge the Senate to take immediate action to affirm that water permits are not required for FIFRA-regulated pesticide applications.”

The letters sent this week are available in full at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.