Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cuts to crop insurance program approved Wednesday will be restored to bill in December

Cuts to the crop insurance program will be restored to the budget bill, reports Agri-Pulse. "The proposed cut to crop insurers remains in the bill, which the House approved 266-167 late Wednesday afternoon, but the provision will be reversed when Congress considers a fiscal 2016 spending bill in December," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).

"Conaway, who had argued that the cut was so draconian that it would drive companies out of the crop insurance business, agreed to support the bill and urged other members of his committee to do so," reports Agri-Pulse. "Many GOP committee members still voted against it, including Steve King of Iowa and Randy Neugebauer of Texas, who represent major farm districts." While it was too late on Wednesday to strip the provision from the budget agreement before the House vote, Conaway said, “I have assurances I trust from people I trust that when the omnibus comes around, this will be the first thing fixed."

The two-year budget deal "worked out by Republicans and the Obama administration included a provision to cut $3 billion over 10 years from the crop insurance program to help offset increases to defense and domestic programs," Charly Haley and Donnelle Eller report for The Des Moines Register. "Senators and House members complained they weren’t notified of the crop insurance cut before the deal was struck. The deal would create the savings by lowering the rate of return for companies that sell crop insurance to farmers. The federal government partially subsidizes those companies and insures some of their losses. Crop insurance companies that depend on federal subsidies said in a statement that the cuts could be devastating to the industry."

"House Agriculture Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said Wednesday that many of his colleagues 'made it very clear over the last 24 hours that the attempt to gut crop insurance in the budget agreement was not acceptable,'" Haley and Eller write. Conaway said in a statement: "Our nation's farmers and ranchers did their part in reigning in our nation's debt in the 2014 farm bill, saving an estimated $23 billion."

Some are not entirely convinced that crop insurance will be saved, Haley and Eller write. Wayne Fredericks, president of the Iowa Soybean Association board,  said, "'It’s hard to trust what goes on out there sometimes,' especially since the deal was 'crafted by a small group of leaders in back room.'" He said that "chopping crop insurance support after cutting agriculture support so deeply in the farm bill is 'a slap in the face.'”

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