As the House Committee on Agriculture works to reform federal crop insurance, the program underwent another round of close inspection during this morning's hearing of the Subcommittee on Risk Management, Research and Specialty Crops, led by Representative Tom Ewing (R-IL), the panel's chairman.
The subcommittee review brought together USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Ken Ackerman, and a dozen representatives from farmer organizations, commodity groups, the insurance industry and lenders. The hearing is the latest in a series held in rural areas and in Washington, D.C. that are identifying potential reforms to federal crop insurance.
"It is no surprise that I, along with many of my colleagues, are concerned about the lack of funding in the President's budget for the crop insurance program, particularly after the President expressed his commitment to reform in the State of the Union Address," said Ewing. "Funding issues and offsets are not easy issues to deal with. However, this effort truly needs to be a partnership between Congress and the Administration."
Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) has placed reform of the federal crop insurance program at the forefront of the Committee's work this session of Congress.
"I want improvement in crop insurance that rewards efficiency, good management, production and rewards harvest," said Chairman Combest. "Crop insurance should more realistically reflect productive capability and production costs. The Agriculture Committee's goal is to bring Washington bureaucrats on board with our efforts to meet producers' needs."
More immediate improvement outlined by Rep. Ewing includes: farmer premiums, rating policies, livestock coverage, incentives for private development of risk management products, administrative and operating cost share of premiums, producer discounts for no-loss histories, and better program enforcement. Ewing noted that a comprehensive top-to-bottom structural crop insurance review may result in a total rewrite of the program, a view advanced by Chairman Combest.
Ewing represents Illinois' Fifteenth Congressional District -- which includes eleven counties in East-Central Illinois — in the U.S. House of Representatives. A fourth-generation West Texan, Larry Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District that includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin.