Fix ARC Problems by Using Crop Insurance Data, Say Farm Belt Senators
Two members of the Senate Agriculture Committee filed a bill to require the USDA to use crop insurance data as its first choice in deciding whether farmers will get an Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) subsidy. Most corn, soybean, and wheat growers are enrolled in the insurance-like ARC program, but there are recurring complaints of wide variation in payment rates among adjoining counties.
The bill sponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joni Ernst of Iowa tries to reduce disparities in payments by telling USDA to use yield data compiled by the Risk Management Agency, which oversees the crop insurance program, rather than data gathered by the National Agricultural Statistics Service through surveys of growers. At present, USDA turns to NASS first and then uses RMA data if it needs more material. The bill would reverse the order. It also would allow the state committees that advise USDA’s Farm Service Agency to adjust the estimated yields to reduce inexplicable differences between neighboring counties or along state boundaries.
The two largest U.S. farm groups plus major groups representing corn, soybean, wheat, sunflowers, canola, dry peas, and lentils said they supported the bill. In a letter, they said the government was likely to pay about the same overall amount in subsidies under the Heitkamp-Ernst bill as it does now but the result would be fairer. “We heard far more about discrepancies between county payments than any other issue in the ARC program and believe this will make the program function even better in the future,” they said.