As the Agriculture Committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate prepare to mark up farm bill proposals this week, farmers and the commodity organizations that support them will watch closely to see where cuts are proposed, how deep those cuts are and what kind of safety net will be left after all the slicing and dicing is accomplished.

Crop insurance will be top of mind as the industry assesses the importance of what has become the key element of the farm safety net.

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) voiced concern over a proposal introduced in “an alternative conservation title bill,” that would limit government cost-share for crop insurance for crops produced on land that has been converted from sod grass or some wetlands.

“The bill would also tieconservation compliance to crop insurance, which NAWG strongly opposes,” according to a NAWG press release. The organization expressed concerns that crop insurance would remain a target for legislators’ budget axes and expects “numerous proposals to weaken the crop insurance program. NAWG will continue to track such proposals and coordinate with state associations to combat them.”

Texas corn farmers also see crop insurance as an increasingly important aspect of protecting farmers against catastrophic losses. “With the recently proposed farm bill from both the House and the Senate, crop insurance will be the tool farmers have left to provide risk coverage for their farm and to offer protection for the operating loans received from agricultural lenders,” says David Gibson, executive vice president for the Corn Producers Association of Texas.

“The last two years were prime examples of how crop insurance is supposed to work and why it is vital to have that kind of support for our producers in the farm bill,” said Steve Verett, executive vice president for Plains Cotton Growers (PCG). “A strong crop insurance program allows our producers to have the assurance of being able to sustain their operations even after adverse events, whether it be drought or a hailstorm.”

The May 10 PCG newsletter also commented on how the farm bill proposal will affect crop insurance. “In the crop insurance title, producers can buy area-wide coverage that would cover anywhere from 70 to 90 percent. The program carries an 80 percent premium subsidy and no reference price, which industry leaders believe is a policy that would help resolve the World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil, who has long criticized target price or reference price provisions for cotton.”

Lindsay Kennedy, with the National Sorghum Producers, also commented on the importance of crop insurance.

"A strong crop insurance title is vital for sorghum farmers to effectively manage their risks in an inherently volatile industry," she said. "This reliable protection, tailored to individual farms, allows producers to get credit from lenders, and at the same time shields taxpayers from overexposure by shifting the lion’s share of the risk to private sector companies and reinsurers."