Soybean farmer Kevin Scott testified on the importance of risk management programs within the nation’s farm legislation at a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee this morning in Washington. Scott, who serves on the Board of Directors of the American Soybean Association (ASA) and as an at-large ASA Governing Committee member, detailed for the Committee the ways that programs within the commodities and crop insurance titles of the farm bill work together and may be improved moving forward to help producers in a time of economic uncertainty on the farm. Scott also testified on positive changes the Committee could make with regard to wetlands conservation, an important issue in his home state of South Dakota.
In his comments on Title I, Scott stated that the two main programs within that title—the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs–have worked as intended. “(ASA) supports reauthorizing ARC and PLC as choices on a farm-by-farm and crop-by-crop basis,” he stated. “We also support offering an option to reallocate crop acreage bases or to update bases to reflect recent planting history, and to update program payment yields, if funding is available to do so.”
Scott suggested that the more accurate yield data generated by USDA’s Risk Management Agency should be used to calculate payments, instead of the current policy of using yields reported to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and further recommended that payments under Title I should continue to be based on average planting of covered commodities in recent years, rather than on current-year plantings. “Decoupling encourages farmers to follow market signals rather than prospects for receiving government payments,” Scott said.
Regarding crop insurance, Scott noted the strong support of ASA for strengthening the program, calling it an essential tool for managing risk. “Crop insurance is now widely acknowledged as the most valuable part of the farm safety net,” Scott said.
Scott also took the opportunity to discuss the need for changes to the way USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service determines wetlands for the purposes of farm bill conservation programs. “Ensuring that, as farmers, we are good stewards of our environment is paramount to ASA. One of the ways we do so is by conserving our wetlands,” Scott said. “However, the process at NRCS for determining the existence of wetlands has become slow and burdensome to producers … There is such a backlog of applications waiting on NRCS in our area that producers can wait years before they know what they can or cannot do on their land.”
Scott suggested several fixes, including third-party determinations, deadlines for NRCS determinations, establishment of a determination as a final action that would allow for an immediate appeal in District Court, and reallocation of NRCS resources to states where the wetland determination backlog is largest.
A full transcript of Scott’s testimony is available here.