House lawmakers introduce conservation compliance agreement
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WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 - House legislators introduced a bill similar to an agreement between agricultural and conservation groups included in Senate Agriculture Committee's mark of the farm bill.
Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., today introduced The Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013 in the House. Under the legislation, in order for farmers to qualify for taxpayer subsidies of crop insurance, they must meet conservation requirements that minimize the impact of farming in highly erodible lands and wetlands.
“By relinking crop insurance subsidy assistance to basic conservation compliance measures, we can continue providing that important safety net while also protecting some of our most sensitive areas,” Thompson said.
“This concept is widely upheld as an important conservation initiative by many in the ag and environmental communities,” Fortenberry noted. “I look forward to its passage or inclusion in this year's Farm Bill.”
The crop insurance bill, H.R. 2260, is referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, which did not include the compliance provisions in its farm bill passed through committee last month.
Although the Senate farm bill includes the compliance agreement, an amendment sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to limit crop insurance subsidies for farmers with AGIs over $750,000 passed on the Senate floor. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., opposed the amendment, saying it would undermine the agreement between agriculture and conservation communities.
As noted in Rep. Thompson's announcement, crop insurance for farmers is subsidized by an average of 62 percent. The Crop Insurance Accountability Act would require farmers to meet a certain conservation compliance standard to continue qualifying for subsidized crop insurance. If a farmer chooses not to participate in conservation compliance or is found to be out of compliance, they may still purchase crop insurance but would be responsible for 100 percent of the insurance premium.
The proposed 2013 Farm Bill in the House, H.R. 1947, eliminated direct payments for most crops, which also ended conservation compliance requirements for many of those crops and lands, noted Thompson. The Crop Insurance Accountability Act re-links conservation compliance measures to crop insurance premium subsidies.
“It is no secret that much of agriculture fought the conservation compliance linkage requirement during last year's debate on the farm bill,” said Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “But our desire to avoid a time-consuming and contentious debate with our long-standing partners on workable environmental stewardship programs helped build a consensus around rational provisions that protect farmers while furthering the conservation of natural resources.”
Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said the bill “closes a dangerous loophole which threatens soil and water quality as well as habitat for fish and wildlife.”
“Farmers and ranchers deserve a safety net against severe weather and natural disasters,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall in support of the provision. “But it's just as crucial to make sure that crop insurance isn't an incentive to destroy wetlands and grasslands that protect drinking water, mitigate the impacts of floods and provide habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.”
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