Wheat Growers Hold ‘Fly-In’ to Capitol Hill to Save Crop Insurance

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By Teaganne Finn

Wheat growers from 12 states are coming to Washington to ask lawmakers for crop insurance and farm safety net programs in the 2018 farm bill.

The National Association of Wheat Growers is holding its first Policy Fly-in Sept. 26-27 on Capitol Hill. The growers plan to have more than 90 meetings with members of Congress to discuss their issues and priorities, Caitlin Eannello, director of communications at NAWG, told Bloomberg BNA.

The most pressing issues that the growers will address include maintaining the current crop insurance structure, strong farm safety nets, and a quick farm bill re-authorization process. Two farm safety net programs that Eannello says farmers are most adamant about are the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill.

Farmers will be asking lawmakers to maintain producer choice between these programs, said Eannello, but warns that “both programs still need some improvements.”

The ARC program provides revenue loss coverage at the county level, according to the Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. The payments are issued when the actual county crop revenue of a covered commodity falls below the ARC county guarantee for the covered commodity. PLC program payments are issued when the effective price of a covered commodity is less than the reference price for that commodity.

“Growers have faced a long-term downward price for wheat and they are struggling significantly,” David Schemm, president of NAWG, told Bloomberg BNA.

Schemm has gone on several listening tours around the country to gain a better perspective on what wheat producers are saying. “The No. 1 priority for farmers is crop insurance,” said Schemm, a wheat and corn farmer in western Kansas.

Being Vocal

Schemm also pointed out that a lot of times farmers already feel increased financial pressure and lately farmers have not only been hit by low prices but also extreme drought and flooding.

After taking over as NAWG president in March, Schemm made it his goal to ensure wheat growers’ voices are heard. This Policy Fly-in is a first for NAWG growers and especially important as the next farm bill is drafted.

Crop insurance was one of four titles that accounted for 99 percent of anticipated farm bill mandatory program outlays in the 2014 farm bill, according to a Congressional Research Report. The crop insurance program has “perhaps the widest commodity and regional coverage of any federal farm program,” said the report.

In May, President Trump proposed $28.562 billion in crop insurance cuts, according to Democrats on the House Committee on Agriculture. Trump’s cuts would limit crop insurance premium subsidies to $40,000 per farmer.

Eannello stressed that farmers don’t make money from insurance—rather, it creates an incentive to farm.

Growers also will push legislators for the CREAATE legislation, according to Eannello. The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports bill was introduced on Sept. 19 by Sens. Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). It would double the funding for USDA export promotion programs, including the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. A similar bill (H.R. 2321) has been introduced in the House.

The growers will meet with almost every member of the Senate and House agriculture committees during the two-day event, said Eannello. “The message we’re hoping to push out is our growers shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and tell Congress how the farm bill is working for them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Teaganne Finn in Washington at tfinn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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