Gaithersburg, MD – Farmers who adopt conservation measures to build healthier soils should be rewarded with a discount on their crop insurance premiums. That’s what a pilot program proposed by Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan – and supported by the Izaak Walton League of America – would do. Rep. Nolan’s legislation (HR 4865) would establish a pilot program to reduce the crop insurance premiums paid by farmers who agree to reduce or eliminate tillage, plant cover crops, or use resource-conserving crop rotations for at least five years.
The Izaak Walton League has been promoting this “good farmer discount” as part of our 2018 Farm Bill agenda because it’s a win-win for farmers and American taxpayers. Farmers who reduce their risk of a crop loss by adopting soil health practices should be rewarded with lower insurance rates, just as low-risk drivers earn a “good driver discount” on their automobile insurance rates. As more farmers work to rebuild soil health, the risks of catastrophic crop losses will drop, reducing the cost of the crop insurance system overall – a cost that is covered by taxpayers at a rate of $8 billion per year today. Taxpayers cover 62% of the cost of federal crop insurance, so measures that reduce the cost of the system will also save taxpayer dollars.
“By implementing this pilot study, the Crop Insurance Modernization Act will encourage land conservation practices that are so vital to the health of our land, water, and soil,” Rep. Nolan said. “This study will explore the benefits of providing greater subsidies to farmers engaged in advanced conservation activities. I will continue working hard to advance this legislation as we move forward with the 2018 Farm Bill.”
Scientific research and on-farm trials have shown that farmers who plant cover crops, use more diverse crop rotations, and reduce or eliminate tilling the soil can increase organic matter and rebuild the health of their soils. Increased organic matter helps soil hold more water, making fields more resilient to drought and reducing the likelihood of a major crop loss in an extremely dry or wet year.
Polluted runoff from farms is one of the greatest threats to water quality in America today. By holding more water, healthier soil reduces runoff from farm fields, keeping soil, fertilizers, and pesticides out of America’s streams and wetlands. The Izaak Walton League has been a long-time leader in efforts to protect America’s streams and wetlands, including by advocating for conservation practices in the Farm Bill.
The League will continue to work with Rep. Nolan and others in Congress to reward farmers who take proactive steps to improve soil health while saving taxpayer dollars.