Thirteen Senators this week issued a letter to farm bill conferees outlining their position in support of expanded crop insurance options for producers of specialty crops.
The letter acknowledged a farm bill in which "crop insurance becomes the centerpiece of the farm safety net" but noted that new strategies to adapt to a changing agricultural market will require new options for all producers.
The group, which supports provisions for specialty and underserved farmers in the Senate farm bill, says any agreement on the final legislation should include: whole farm diversified insurance; crop insurance improvements for organic producers and beginning farmers and ranchers; authority for research and development; a pilot program for index-based weather insurance; and expanded public-private partnerships to develop new insurance products.
"Each of the provisions, which are contained in the Senate bill, promote production and security for specialty crop growers, organic producers and young and beginning farmers and will help grow our agriculture industry in fair and constructive ways," the group wrote. "We urge you to include these provisions in any farm bill compromise that comes out of the conference committee."
The group says that products like the whole farm diversified risk management insurance will help farms that raise several different types of crops have more options, complete with a "diversification bonus." Diversification, the group says, "is good for the environment and helps reduce economic risk."
Beginning farmers and ranchers, too, will have an extra perk if the group's priorities are included in the farm bill – a special provision allows a 10% discount for all crop insurance premiums for producers who fit into the category.
Finally, the research and development component will allow the Risk Management Agency to keep crop insurance expansion moving forward. Specifically, it allows RMA to maintain existing crop insurance policies and develop new ones.
Signatories on the letter include Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Al Franken, D-Minn., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Kirsten GIllibrand, D-N.Y.