While some important progress was made in the recent Farm Bill regarding soil health and cover crop management, a recent article detailed an important omission that will still impact many farmers’ wallets.
In our most recent podcast on our cover crop website, you’ll learn about some important, favorable rule changes with the Farm Bill affecting those of you using cover crops and taking crop insurance.
But a proposal allowing a performance-based crop insurance premium discount for use of farming practices that have been proven to reduce risk, such as irrigation, reduced tillage or no-till, cover crops, etc., was yanked from the final bill in conference committee. A list of changes to RMA polices due to the final version of the Farm Bill can be found here, but you won’t see premium discounts listed.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted this article attempting to explain the decision and it’s good reading. Essentially, it seems lawmakers got caught up in a misguided debate about the legality of rebates and treating all farmers fairly.
NRDC points out that while offering financial incentives to farmers on a sales basis is prohibited, it is legal in the Federal Crop Insurance Act to offer performance-based premium rates for practices that reduce risk to crops, and the proposal just would have made it easier for RMA to oversee this effort.
This week I hit the road and visited several no-tillers in central Missouri and most of them have made great strides in utilizing cover crops to reduce erosion issues in their shallow claypan soils. But no-till practices and covers are about the only thing standing between them and ongoing disastrous water erosion — yet, many of their neighbors continue to till away and sacrifice precious topsoil.
It’s ridiculous that no-tillers doing the right thing and safeguarding their soil resource cannot get a break on federal crop insurance premiums. It’s time to put more pressure on our elected officials to fully support and fund incentive programs that reduce risk. It makes good sense and cents.