A significant change that has come to the fore in the current farm bill debate, Anderson says, is the role of crop insurance. “This has changed the political dynamic in ways that we didn’t anticipate when we did the major reform acts in 1994 and 2000.crop insurance,farm bill,government payments,John Anderson

“When farm programs were first established, they gave a tremendous boost to farm organizations like Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, and over time, the commodity associations that grew up to protect the interests and policy of the individual commodities.

“In the last five years, we’’ve seen the same thing happen with the crop insurance industry. You’re welcome to disagree, but I think the crop insurance industry groups have probably had more influence on this farm bill process than any of the commodity groups.

“They’ve been hugely important in the process — and that’s going to be the case going forward. Where’s the money now in the farm safety net? It’s not in Title 1 programs, it’s not in the commodity-specific programs — it’s in crop insurance. And so the crop insurance industry has a vested interest in being really engaged in the legislative process, and it’s going to figure more prominently than ever before in the kinds of farm programs we have.

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“I find it especially interesting that now the crop insurance companies will be the ones delivering the programs. We’ve not had that situation in agriculture before, where the group delivering the safety net has a vested interest in what the programs are. Going forward, it will be difficult to make changes and implement programs that the crop insurance industry may have a problem with.

READ MORE: Crop Insurance — Just the Facts

“This makes for a different dynamic, and it’s not one we can fully appreciate because we haven’t’ experienced it before. “

As a side note, Anderson noted that the increasing number of pages in farm bills over the decades indicates just how complex the legislation has become.

“The National Ag Law Center in Arkansas has the full text of every farm bill ever passed. If we look at the 1933 and 1938 acts, these bills were only about 20 pages long. The 1933 act was one of the most monumental, transformative pieces of legislation ever passed, and it was only 19 pages. Farm bills have become monstrous — the current Senate bill is something like 1,400 pages.”