AMARILLO — The farm bill has long been touted as a ‘safety net’ for farmers and according to the Texas Wheat Producers Association (TWPA) it must continue to honor that commitment.
The 2012 Farm Bill has faced a series of challenges, the largest of which is at least a $24 billion reduction in funding. Since last fall, members of the Senate and House Ag Committees have made significant strides to craft a bill that saves taxpayers billions of dollars, but more work is needed to secure adequate protection for America’s farmers.
Throughout the process, the TWPA has been working with legislators to ensure adequate coverage for Texas wheat growers through a comprehensive and diverse farm policy package which complements a strong crop insurance program.
“We need options in crop insurance coverage and Title I programs that will work for farm operations across our diverse state and country,” said TWPA President Ben Scholz, a wheat grower from Wylie, Texas. “Regional differences across the country do not allow for one-size-fits-all farm policy.”
In late April, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed its version of the 2012 farm bill which included several positive attributes for wheat farmers, but left them exposed to significant risk.
The Senate committee’s bill eliminates the Direct, Counter-Cyclical, and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) programs and replaces them with the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program. ARC is designed to address shallow-losses and provides a narrow 10 percent band of revenue protection not covered by crop insurance policies. Title I of the bill does not include measures which will protect farmers when crop prices plunge or disasters occur. The Marketing Loan program is kept intact, but with rates so low that they are not applicable to today’s operating environment.
According to TWPA executives, more than one option is needed to address drastic regional differences and the huge amount of risk exposure under which most Texas wheat growers operate.
“Moving forward we will push for additional coverage options for producers in Title I,” said Scholz. “Farm programs must meet the needs of all wheat producers, and those needs will be different for each individual operation.”
Due to the variable climate and growing conditions in Texas, available crop insurance coverage levels are lower than in other parts of the country and premiums tend to be higher. Therefore, Texas wheat farmers are exposed to more risk and shallow-loss programs will not protect them when they need it most – during significant price declines or production failures.
It is no secret that farmers are at the mercy of an unpredictable and volatile market. Current price trends have been favorable for farming operations, but when prices decline, a true safety net must be in place to protect farmers and the nation’s food supply.
Successes of the senate bill include important improvements to crop insurance programs including permanent enterprise units which are separated for irrigated and non-irrigated acres.
“The TWPA has continued to discuss the importance of crop insurance and we are pleased with the improvements made in the Senate bill,” said Scholz. “Crop insurance is essential to our members and their ability to operate under adverse conditions.”
According to Scholz, it is important for Texas wheat growers to see a farm bill completed this year that includes significant and adequate protection for their operations.
“We are very appreciative of the steps the Senate Agricultural Committee has taken to begin the arduous process of crafting essential farm legislation,” said Scholz. “We look forward to continually working with members in the House and Senate to make improvements to the farm safety net that address both regional and commodity concerns.”