(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) — On the heels of the 2014 Farm Bill becoming law, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) addressed the crop insurance industry yesterday and noted that crop insurance is now the centerpiece of U.S. farm policy.
“Today, crop insurance is the foundation of this Farm Bill and the farm safety net,” Stabenow, one of the law’s architects, said at the crop insurance industry’s annual convention.
The Farm Bill – which was three years in the making – started out with deficit reduction in mind and kept that focus until the very end, she said. Key to taxpayer savings was the transition away from direct farmer payments to insurance policies that are purchased by farmers and serviced by the private sector.
“The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance…and they don’t get help unless they really need it,” Stabenow said referring to the premiums farmers pay and the indemnities that are only received after losses are verified.
Stabenow noted that during the debate, farmers stressed their support for crop insurance and asked Congress to strengthen it. And by making crop insurance more readily available to specialty crop growers, she said the policy’s coalition of support has been strengthened.
The crop insurance system won high praise from the chairwoman and other lawmakers for helping farmers through the worst drought in a generation in 2012. Despite widespread losses, crop insurers processed claims quickly and accurately, and unlike past disasters, there were no calls for costly ad hoc disaster bills.
Tom Zacharias, National Crop Insurance Services president, thanked Senator Stabenow for her outstanding leadership and noted that America’s farmers and consumers owe her a debt of gratitude for being a steadfast proponent of a smarter, less costly Farm Bill that embraces a larger role for crop insurance.
“Senator Stabenow learned first-hand from Michigan’s vital specialty crop sector that crop insurance is the best tool farmers have to manage the ups and downs of Mother Nature,” he said. “She has done a terrific job of shepherding through a Farm Bill that ensures farmers everywhere can purchase the risk protection they need,” he said.
Zacharias noted that for crop insurance to succeed in the future, Congress must help ensure that the system remains “affordable, available, and viable.” He also said that program integrity and consumer service must continue to be the industry’s top priorities.