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Published May 13, 2013, 10:49 AM

Groups agree on conservation, crop insurance

Farm groups have agreed to endorse ineligibility for premium assistance if conservation mandates aren’t met.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — The agreement among groups ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union to the National Association of Conservation Districts and Ducks Unlimited says that all the groups endorse a link between conservation compliance and crop insurance, under which farmers who are found to be out of compliance with conservation mandates would lose their eligibility for premium assistance until compliance conditions are satisfied.

The groups also noted they would oppose means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.

During last year’s farm bill debate, the Senate passed an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to limit crop premium subsidies to farmers with an income of more than $750,000.

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said he thinks if Congress includes the compromise, it would move the farm bill forward.

“It is no secret that much of agriculture fought the compliance amendment during last year’s Senate debate on the farm bill,” Stallman said in a news release.

“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,” he said.

Six former U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation chiefs wrote a letter to Senate leaders outlining the same principles that were in the agreement.

“As you take steps to modernize our farm safety net, we urge you to make sure that compliance provisions cover all income support, including eligibility for crop and revenue insurance premium subsidies,” the letter said.

The former chiefs also said they hope Congress will provide incentives to lower the cost of crop insurance to producers who use USDA-approved conservation practices, but they added, “Further, to ensure the widest participation possible, we believe crop insurance should continue to be available to all producers regardless of income. Doing so will benefit farmers, the environment and all Americans going forward.”

Bruce Knight, a South Dakotan who served as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the George W. Bush administration, noted that the letter was coordinated by the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

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