Another Farm Bill year is upon us as I am sure you are all very aware. While every Farm Bill is different, the 2023 Farm Bill is shaping up to be another interesting process where legislative priorities shaping rural America, and crop insurance, will be enacted into law. Please read below for a snapshot of the current landscape, outlook, and what you can do to get involved.
What is a Farm Bill?
For those who are new to the industry or haven’t yet experienced a Farm Bill…
The Farm Bill is an omnibus, multiyear law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. It provides an opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues and provides the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) its programmatic missions. In addition to developing and enacting farm and nutrition legislation, Congress is involved in overseeing its implementation. The Farm Bill typically is renewed about every five years and since the 1930s, Congress has enacted eighteen Farm Bills.
Farm Bills traditionally have focused on farm commodity program support for a handful of staple commodities — corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, dairy, and sugar. Without reauthorization, some Farm Bill programs would expire, such as farm commodity support programs. Other programs have permanent authority and do not need reauthorization (e.g., crop insurance) and are included in a Farm Bill to make policy changes or achieve budgetary goals.
Crop Insurance in the 2023 Farm Bill
Specifically for the Federal Crop Insurance Program and its administration and private-sector delivery, Title XI of the Farm Bill can make modifications to rules or require USDA to create pilot programs. Premiums are subsidized, and private insurance companies share the risk of losses with the government. The policies provide indemnities when yields or revenue fall below guaranteed levels. Section 508(h) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act already authorizes private companies to develop new insurance products, but they have to be actuarially sound and approved by USDA.
Title XI costs approximately $101 billion, or 7%, of the projected 10-year cost of Farm Bill programs through 2033.The program continues to grow significantly because of its effectiveness, flexibility, new products that have been especially attractive to livestock and dairy producers.
Some specific issues that are being discussed in crop insurance (based on crop insurance-related legislation already introduced in the 118th Congress):
- Specialty Crop producers, defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture,” are looking to make changes to address a variety of issues that limit participation in many areas.
- There also are pending proposals to fix specific concerns with coverage for wheat, wine grapes and other crops, such as mushrooms.
- A bipartisan proposal, entitled the COVER Act, would revive a $5-per-acre premium subsidy program for growers who plant cover crops.
- Policymakers and farm groups continue to develop ideas for making the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program more appealing to farmers and agents.
- Separation of enterprise units for continuous and fallow cropping systems.
This list is certainly not all that we should expect to see with regards to crop insurance priorities within the 2023 Farm Bill. As of current, all Farm Bill stakeholders are awaiting the release and committee consideration of the legislation, which is currently anticipated to occur as early as the beginning of September when Congress returns. However, we could see activity being pushed until October depending on the Congressional Calendar. There is ongoing advocacy work from all stakeholders within the Farm Bill, but the Committees are still awaiting significant determining factors from Congressional leadership such as funding levels, which will help determine how resources can be allocated to help achieve priority pursuits within the Farm Bill, such as increased reference prices for commodity producers.
The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2023, so it is almost certain that a short-term extension will be required through the Fall for the Agricultural Committees and the whole of Congress to consider this legislation. RCIS is monitoring all these developments in real time and will keep you apprised of these details as the Farm Bill is actively considered in Congress.
What Does This Process Look Like?
Why is This Important and Why Should I get Involved?
The omnibus nature of the Farm Bill can create broad coalitions of support, sometimes amongst usually conflicting interests for policies that individually might have greater difficulty achieving majority support in the legislative process. In recent years, more stakeholders have become involved in the debate on Farm Bills, including national farm groups; commodity associations; state organizations; nutrition and public health officials; and advocacy groups representing conservation, recreation, rural development, faith-based interests, local food systems, and organic production. These factors can contribute to increased interest in the allocation of funds provided in a Farm Bill, which is why the crop insurance industry must be an active voice in this process.
Thus, stakeholder input is paramount to the process — it is what empowers your interests within those coalitions. Without meaningful input, there can be no productive output. The practical experience you have from many years of running your operations provides valuable perspective into shaping law — and as a former staffer on Capitol Hill — I will tell you that there is great value in sharing that perspective. It’s important for you to remember that most of the Members and staff are not farmers and many do not come from rural areas, so, sharing your perspectives and what impacts your business and customers is paramount.
Find Your Voice
Many D.C.-based agricultural organizations do a great job of carrying their members voice to the Hill. These groups often have grassroots efforts that make their members aware of key issues as they arise; plus — they can help take your ideas and put them into “legislative speak” so they are better understood by Capitol Hill to ensure uptake of your priorities.
Below are just some advocacy resources from crop insurance groups and producer-led organizations that can help you:
- Crop Insurance in America
- Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau
- Crop Insurance Professionals Association
- American Soybean Association
- National Milk Producers Federation
- National Corn Growers Association
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- National Cotton Council
- National Association of Wheat Growers
Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have websites and utilize social media, such as X (Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram. Included on the websites is the latest Committee news, hearing schedules, and requests for information from farmers like you. Each of those committees has six subcommittees that tackle specific issue areas. You can find these websites and explore more ways to get involved by going to:
Additionally, individual members of Congress will often host their own listening sessions and provide opportunities for feedback, especially during the upcoming District/State Working Period in August, which will shape their pursuits and areas of interest as they navigate the 2023 Farm Bill process. Whether they are on the Agriculture Committee or not, they will still have to vote on this critical legislation and be involved in helping to shape this Farm Bill through the amendment process — keeping them informed of issues impacting your operation is of great importance.
Challenge to You
I am acutely aware that everything I suggested above will take time. Precious time that you dedicate to your operations, your family, your hobbies — so I only encourage you to dedicate time that you have to give to these causes. However, I do stand by the precept of how important your voice is in this civic process. Therefore, I challenge you to do one thing before the 2023 Farm Bill process ends: Reach out to YOUR Member of Congress and either 1) ask who covers agriculture issues and request a brief meeting to discuss your operation and concerns with them or 2) ask if that member is hosting a roundtable or listening session on the Farm Bill and ask how to attend.
You can use the below tools to find out who your Member of Congress or Senator is:
Congressional Research Service
Congressional Budget Office