Lake County News - Legislation to enhance conservation and incentivize responsible farming practices to be signed into law
U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA-5) legislation, The Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013 (H.R. 2260), passed the Senate on Tuesday as part of the compromise long term reauthorization of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2642) and is expected to be signed into law.
The bipartisan Crop Insurance Accountability Act, co-authored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), enhances conservation by incentivizing responsible farming practices.
Under this legislation, in order for farmers to qualify for taxpayer subsidies of crop insurance, they must meet basic conservation requirements that minimize the impact to some of our most sensitive areas such as highly erodible lands and wetlands.
“This new law will achieve two important goals. American farmers will continue having a strong and reliable crop insurance safety net, and our most sensitive lands will be protected and conserved,” said Thompson. “This is an excellent example of what we can accomplish if we work across the aisle to achieve common goals. This law is a win for American farmers – they will be protected. And this law is a win for our wetlands and highly erodible areas – they will be conserved.”
The bipartisan Crop Insurance Accountability Act:
Applies to annually-tilled crops grown on highly erodible lands (HEL) or any crops in wetlands, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA);
Requires farmers in these areas to file a conservation plan with USDA that states how they will reduce and offset impacts in these areas;
Requires farmers to be in compliance according to their USDA-approved conservation plan in order to receive federal subsidies for their crop insurance premiums;
Delays the date for producers to come into compliance who are subject to conservation compliance for the first time for five years;
Allows for all appeal processes to be exhausted before farmers are found to be out of compliance; and
Provides exemptions for circumstances beyond the farmers control and actions taken in good faith.
Currently, crop insurance for farmers is subsidized by an average of 62 percent. The Crop Insurance Accountability Act would require farmers to meet a certain conservation compliance standard to continue qualifying for subsidized crop insurance.
If a farmer chooses not to participate in conservation compliance or is found to be out of compliance, they may still purchase crop insurance but would be responsible for 100 percent of the insurance premium.
Since the 1985 Farm Bill, conservation compliance has been required for participation in many farm bill programs.
The 1996 Farm Bill disconnected conservation compliance from crop insurance premium subsidies and instead tied it to the direct payments, or fixed payments, farmers receive every year based on their land’s production history.
The Farm Bill that passed the House essentially eliminated direct payments, and in doing so also ended conservation compliance requirements for many of those crops and lands. The Crop Insurance Accountability Act re-links conservation compliance measures to crop insurance premium subsidies.
Reps. Thompson and Fortenberry originally introduced the Crop Insurance Accountability Act on June 5th, 2013, and was supported by: the American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Association of State Conservation Agencies, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund.
H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (the Farm Bill) passed the House on January 29th, 2014 by a bipartisan vote of 251-166. It passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68-32 and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama in the coming days.
Thompson represents California’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.