As worsening drought conditions continue to envelop more than half of the United States, the American Soybean Association (ASA) is pointing to the farm bill currently stalled and awaiting debate by the full House of Representatives as an essential means of ensuring the continued coverage of American farmland through crop insurance and risk management, as well as disaster assistance programs. 

 “As conditions deteriorate throughout much of rural America and the outlook for farmers becomes bleaker and bleaker, we are reminded that farming is subject to so many elements and risks outside of the farmer’s control.

“This further emphasizes the need for programs to help farmers manage risks in order to stay viable and plant next year,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb. 

Currently, 85 percent of soybean acres in the United States are covered by crop insurance. However, Wellman says it should not be misconstrued as a profit center for farmers. “Just as when homeowners insurance replaces valuables following a flood or a fire, crop insurance only covers farmers in the event of a significant loss,” he said.

“These policies often have deductibles or loss levels at 25 percent or more. They aren’t there to turn a profit; they exist to help farmers survive and keep farming.”

Wellman added that the current conditions point directly to the benefits provided by revenue-based risk management programs.

“Revenue-based risk management tools that complement crop insurance ensure that farmers who suffer a crop loss — and accompanying revenue loss — receive the assistance they need to remain viable,” he said. “In contrast, a target price-based program would provide no assistance to farmers affected by the drought since it would activate only if prices are low and then only on actual production.”

Many reasons for passage

“For these reasons and countless others,” Wellman said, “ASA calls on Speaker Boehner and House leadership to schedule floor time to consider and pass a farm bill so that it can be conferenced with the Senate and a new farm bill can be enacted this year.” 

Additionally, Wellman, who is also a cow-calf producer, noted the importance of the bill’s disaster assistance provisions to American livestock producers, who are tied closely to soybean farmers.

“Our colleagues in the livestock industry, who depend on soybeans as a steady source of protein-rich feed, are facing an extremely difficult challenge,” he said. “The disaster assistance provisions in the farm bill will provide these key soy allies with the disaster assistance they need this year.”

 “The policies the House and Senate Agriculture Committees worked to include in the farm bill will help farmers deal with the drought, the heat and the galaxy of other real-world risks that agriculture faces,” added Wellman.

“It is imperative the House acts immediately on the farm bill so that these programs can continue to benefit American agriculture.”