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Farmers: Don't change crop insurance

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Farmers: Don't change crop insurance
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While a comprehensive farm bill is being hashed out in U.S. House and Senate conference committee, some in North Dakota are worried that a regulation requirement could diminish a finished product.

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In a letter dated Dec. 3 and sent to four lead conference committee negotiators, representatives from a dozen North Dakota farm organizations stated their opposition to the potential binding of a number of conservation compliance measures to crop insurance eligibility.

The group has at least one robust ally in Washington in Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who sent out a release Wednesday supporting the organizations.

“North Dakota farmers tell me if conservation compliance is a condition of participation in the crop insurance program, they will have no choice but to drop crop insurance,” Cramer said. “If this happens, the program may become actuarially unsound due to lack of participation and crop insurance is required by law to be actuarially sound.”

Advocating for voluntary conservation practices for growers, the organizations stated in a two-page letter that “resurrecting such a policy, which was eliminated in the 1996 farm bill, threatens the viability of crop insurance by discouraging participation in the program by the very insurance risks which it needs to continue sustainability.”

Though it wasn’t part of the final House version of the farm bill, the conservation compliance provision was included in the bill that passed in the Senate. Per usual protocol, the two bills have been in conference committee in an effort to iron out differences for a completed final version, which Cramer and others have said could come later this month.

North Dakota Grain Growers Association executive director Dan Wogsland said the North Dakota alliance is firmly against any new conservation requirements.

“What we would see with conservation compliance would be a decrease in the risks that we and the program itself are looking for,” Wogsland said. “We don’t think it makes any sense. As our letter stated, when you look at last year, looking across this country, the agriculture community saw the worst drought possibly since the 1930s. Despite that, not one disaster program was even entered into Congress. Why? Because the crop insurance program we have in place now worked.”

Cramer said many of the potential compliance rules in North Dakota would largely center on issues involving wetlands drainage and landscape alterations.

“This issue is North Dakota-centric,” Cramer said. “This is a big deal to these organizations but, unfortunately, these conservation compliance requirements may very well become reality. My sense is that we’re not doing great right now on this issue.”

Stating that the conference committee was “getting very close” to a resolution in its negotiations, Cramer did not go so far as to say a farm bill with new conservation regulations for farmers would be one that he would not support.

Sent by a who’s who list of North Dakota farm organization members — including the North Dakota Farmers Union and Farm Bureau — the letter was addressed to two principal conference committee member Congressmen, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Wogsland said he didn’t believe a farm bill with conservation compliance measures was a done deal at all.

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Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
(701) 456-1207
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