Ivory Harlow of Dickie Bird Farm emphasizes how important the farm bill's risk management provisions are, noting that crop insurance can help farmers recoup lost revenue. The federal government discounts the cost of crop insurance, which Harlow says makes it more affordable to farmers.
Dairy producers will be eligible to enroll in revenue protection programs starting Oct. 9. "Expanding the federal crop insurance program to markets that need it is key to an effective farm safety net," said USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey.
North Dakota congressional candidates emphasized the need for a robust crop insurance program recently, as farmers in the state stressed its importance. "If some obstacles prevent that plant from being at a good price or having good production, that crop insurance steps in and fills in the gaps," said farmer and rancher Woody Barth.
The farm bill conference committee will finish its work "sooner rather than later," said Andrew Walmsley of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Walmsley and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson cited a decline in farming income and low commodity prices as reasons legislators will be motivated to expedite the conference process.
The farm bill will help bring stability to the lives of farmers and the community at large, said agricultural economist Keith Coble of Mississippi State University. Farmers find value in how the farm bill addresses risks such as weather, said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., spoke with young farmers about his role on the 2018 farm bill conference committee along with the bill's emphasis on crop insurance, research, expanding agricultural markets and increasing capital access. "[W]e should be able to get there," said Hoeven, addressing the likelihood that the bill will pass before it expires Sept. 30.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer are competing for the same North Dakota Senate seat but agree on crop insurance's importance as they serve on the farm bill conference committee together. "We've heard that from everybody -- farmers, bankers, anyone involved in farm finances -- maintain the crop insurance plan," Cramer said. "Doing that maintains the safety net that is critical to farmers getting their financing."
Challenges posed by heavy spring rainfall in Minnesota could have been overcome, but some farmers are experiencing issues such as soil saturation since summer weather has not provided an ideal mix of sun and rain. Farmer Terry Wellmann said his soybeans are "phenomenal," but his corn was unable to absorb enough nutrients and "went downhill."
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has asked the USDA to approve a disaster declaration for Oregon and to give the state flexibility through the Risk Management Agency to cope with the effects of three fires there. A USDA declaration would provide low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers, which would be another financial tool that farmers could use in concert with crop insurance.
Managing soil health can boost farm profits while also increasing sustainability, writes Willy Klein of Iowa State University Extension. Effective soil management practices include planting cover crops, keeping tillage to a minimum and diversifying crops, writes Klein.
Like our fellow farmers, we purchase crop insurance for the same reasons we purchase home insurance or car insurance -- with the hope we'll never need it. But we'll keep purchasing it every year because someday we might."
Scott VanderWal, third-generation family farmer, Volga, S.D.