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Changes to Farm Safety Net Programs Raise Concerns

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Stabenow added a conservation provision to her chamber’s farm bill. She worked out a deal with farm groups, the insurance industry and conservationists, but the deal already has some farmers grumbling.

That issue is important because the Senate amendment would require the USDA to analyze the impact of the means test and stop it from taking effect if it would result in a “significant increase” in rates paid by other farmers. The amendment doesn’t define what a significant increase would be, but if Hart is right, it would likely be hard for the USDA to make a case for blocking the premium increase.

The conservation requirements would affect all farmers, regardless of income, and some are already grumbling.

In North Dakota, some farmers have dropped out of commodity programs and drained wetlands in recent years, something they were prohibited from doing if they still collected direct payments. Under the Senate bill, if they want to keep buying crop insurance, those wetlands would have to be restored. “That creates a difficult situation for farmers,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

He proposed amendments to soften the bill’s wetlands rules — one proposal would keep farmers from having to restore those drained wetlands — but was unsuccessful. He’s now looking to the House for help with that issue, he said.

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