INDIAN WELLS, Calif., Feb. 11 – If one headline could summarize the challenges confronting the crop insurance industry in 2016, it might be “No Shortage of Critics,” lamented Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director for congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, in a speech to industry leaders today.
As a result, it will be even more important for all sectors of the agriculture industry to work together and continue to educate lawmakers about the importance of crop insurance, she said. That includes the effort to “retie our relationships with some of the food groups” and avoid future attempts to split the farm bill between farm and food interests.
Thatcher spoke to members of the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB) shortly after the release of three different critical reports from the some of the industry’s traditional critics: The Environmental Working Group, the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation.
Although many farm organizations suggest they have already contributed to federal deficit reduction as part of the 2014 farm bill, Thatcher said there will be a continued focus on deficit reduction, and a primary target could be crop insurance premium subsidies. For example, earlier this week, President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for USDA included a recycled plan to save about $1.26 billion on crop insurance in fiscal 2017.
The proposed cuts would reduce premium subsidies for revenue policies that have a harvest price option (HPO) and eliminate buy-up coverage for prevented planting insurance. The cuts would save an estimated $18 billion over 10 years.
In addition to the Obama administration, Thatcher believes there could also be a push to cut crop insurance from the 41 members of the House Freedom Caucus – which is a significant voting block among the 247 House Republicans.
She also encouraged CIRB members to build stronger relationships with members of the Senate, especially those who represent fruit and vegetable growing areas.
“We only had 15 senators who voted consistently with us on all five of the key crop insurance votes,” Thatcher said. “Another five senators consistently voted against us.”
“I don’t think we’ve told our story to everyone we need to yet,” Thatcher added.
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