As work begins on a new Farm Bill, Montana farmers are helping to set national policy this week at the Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California.
“Crop insurance is vital to the industry solely because we’re the only industry that is dependent on two factors that are completely out of our control. We’re dependent on price and we’re dependent on mother nature” says Michelle Erickson-Jones, Montana Grain Growers Association president, Broadview, MT.
Farming is a risky business. And for farmers like Michelle Erickson-Jones of Broadview, maintaining crop insurance as a risk management tool in the new farm bill is important.
“Mother nature is certainly very capable of throwing curve balls at us and it’s basically impossible to maintain your loans without having crop insurance to back your lending and for a young producer like myself I wouldn’t be a farmer if I didn’t have crop insurance” says Erickson-Jones.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was a keynote speaker at Commodity Classic this year and agrees that the Farm Bill must provide a basic farm safety net.
“It must help American farmers whether times of economic crisis and stress without distorting markets. I think we can all agree that it doesn’t help prices when producers start planting for the program and not for the market” says Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Farmers agree with Secretary Purdue and say crop insurance gives them a little peace of mind.
Erickson-Jones says “Most of the time we honestly don’t use our crop insurance. We pay in far more than we get back out. But it’s also vital for the one year we do need to use it and get money back out of it.”
Secretary Purdue says USDA is working with leadership of the House and Senate Ag Committees, so they write a strong farm bill and for good reason.
“I don’t know of a real farmer who would never rather have a good crop at a fair price then taking a government check. I believe that about you and that’s what we’re going to try to create” says Perdue.
Another Farm Bill priority for Montana wheat farmers is making sure the Title 1 program is fully funded so both the ARC and PLC safety net programs can be utilized during times of low commodity prices.
As for a Farm Bill timeline, the House is expected to wrap up its work this spring while it could be summer before the Senate takes up the measure with passage expected in early fall.
Reporting by Russell Nemetz for MTN News