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Federal crop insurance 'fix' draws praise

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Farm groups, farm state politicians and crop insurance organizations are praising congressional action that promises to reverse proposed cuts to the federal crop insurance program.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Farm groups, farm state politicians and crop insurance organizations are praising congressional action that promises to reverse proposed cuts to the federal crop insurance program.

The budget bill passed earlier this year contained $3 billion in cuts over the next 10 years to the program, which is highly popular in agricultural circles. But congressional leaders have now promised to restore the funding in the long-term highway bill.

The text of the highway bill, which still must pass the Senate and House, was released this week.

Federal crop insurance seeks to protect farmers from "unavoidable risk" associated with bad weather, crop disease and insects. Taxpayers pick up some of the cost, farmers the rest. Crop insurance policies are sold and serviced through private companies. The federal government subsidizes the program to keep it affordable.

"Crop insurance is a cornerstone of farmers' and our country's agricultural success, which is why I've fought hard to maintain the integrity of this program both in the 2014 farm bill, which many of us spent more than a year negotiating, and again now," U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a news release.

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"Crop insurance is a lifeline for jobs and families across rural America, and has already received $12 billion in cuts since 2008," she said. "It was unfair to try forcing even deeper cuts on hardworking farmers, and I'm hopeful Congress will pass this needed fix to protect producers and this vital program."

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said, "This is an important provision for our farmers and ranchers in North Dakota and across the country. We worked very hard to get a long-term farm bill that provides our producers with good options for managing risk with strengthened crop insurance. At the same time, we saved $23 billion dollars to help reduce the deficit. Farmers and ranchers need the certainty of knowing there is a safety net in place when they make the large investments necessary to continue producing quality, affordable food for the nation and the world."

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, also welcomed restoration of the $3 billion, noting the Farmers Union and other farm groups worked hard to get the cut reversed.

"We appreciate the bipartisan efforts of Congress to make the correction through language contained in the Highway Bill Conference report," Watne says. "With our struggling farm economy, it's important that crop insurance and other farm programs remain whole."

In a joint statement, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB), American Association of Crop Insurers (AACI) and the National Crop Insurance Service (NCIS) said, "Crop insurance is a successful public-private partnership that has already sustained $12 billion in cuts since 2008. The likely result of additional cuts would be increased industry consolidation, reduced choice in insurance providers for all farmers, and a dramatic decline in the availability and service of policies.  Make no mistake -- this cut would jeopardize effective private-sector delivery of crop insurance and take risk management for farmers in the wrong direction."

On the other side of the issue, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, a frequent critic of U.S. farm policy, said in a news release the $3 billion cut "would neither cripple the crop insurance industry, nor hurt farmers."

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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