WASHINGTON — During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing today covering commodities, crop insurance, and credit within the 2023 Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke with top officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the department’s farm safety net, crop insurance, and what steps are being taken to address rising input costs.
Senator Tuberville opened his remarks with the following statement:
“Today, and throughout this Farm Bill process, my goal is to ensure Alabamians and the Southern states have a seat at the discussion table. Our farmers rely upon a strong farm safety net to manage risk, weather natural disasters, and remain in business despite fluctuating market conditions. Despite the USDA’s farm safety net, producers are still struggling to breakeven due to skyrocketing inflation and rising input costs for feed, fuel, and fertilizer. As Farm Bill discussions take place, we want to ensure a strong crop insurance program that maintains the public-private partnership makeup to help our producers manage risk.”
Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s line of questioning can be found below, and the full video can be found here.
ON ADDRESSING INFLATION FOR FARMERS:
TUBERVILLE: “My peanut growers in Alabama report that the Price Loss Coverage program (PLC) in the 2018 Farm Bill has worked well but, from a safety net perspective, reference prices have not kept up with the rising input costs in agriculture. Has USDA reviewed how we address inflation, from a policy perspective, over the life of a farm bill?”
BONNIE: “I will tell you; my legislative staff is always quick to tell me to emphasize that Congress writes the Farm Bill. And that’s going to be important here too. Obviously, there’s reference prices in statue, but I think you’re right. We’ve seen, when we talked to producers, there’s lots of concern about rising input costs. Our delivery of our programs is critical to be able to put money in their pocket to help address that. So, I assume the conversation about those prices will be a part of the debate that Congress has.”
TUBERVILLE: “During the Trump administration, when commodities were impacted by foreign trade barriers and retaliatory tariffs, USDA implemented the Market Facilitation Program to help offset export losses growers were facing. Has USDA considered a similar program to offset the rising costs of farm inputs?”
BONNIE: “We have not, but we’ve made some investments to try and encourage for example, domestic production of fertilizer to create more options and more competition. We think there may be some, that approach and potential other approaches might be helpful on input cost.”
ON EXPANDING FEDERAL CROP INSURANCE:
TUBERVILLE: “One of the strong suits of the federal crop insurance program is RMA’s authority to do its own research and develop policies. Through this approach, the program can expand to cover new crop types, such as specialty crops, and manage new types of risks. But when I look through RMA’s summary of business for Alabama, I see dozens of available crop insurance products where we’re selling fewer than ten policies each year. Ten policies amongst Alabama’s 44,000 farmers. I like having options for our farmers and support the flexibility of the program, but from a good governance perspective, can you walk me through any cost-benefit analysis you do on the marketability of the policies you put out? Do you need additional authorities or resources to do that kind of analysis?”
BUNGER: “Thank you for the question, Senator. Currently, how RMA stands up all of its different crop policies, I call it a three-pronged approach. We look to the Hill, we look to you, to have us stand up those policies that you write. We also look to the 508(h) process where private submitters submit, and they also involve then recommendations, support from growers much like the corn growers did with pace and then the third is within the department itself, within what guidelines that RMA has to stand up programs. All of those come with reviewers and actuarial soundness, that needs to be maintained so it’s a balance. With the 508(h) process, they are supported by reviewers and also AIP’s (Approved Insurance Providers) that recommend how marketable the products are. So, we will continue to work through and take a look at those. The policies that are available have increased exponentially. In 2000, I believe, RMA had 300 policies and now today we are at 600 policies. The billions of dollars of liability that are covered under those policies have grown also dramatically, the dollar amount that comes to my mind, back in 2000 was $30 billion. Today we are at over $200 billion worth of liability, and that’s every year. So, we are seeing a great deal of interest in all of the policies that we stand up but at the end of the day, we listen to the farmer, we listen to the stakeholders and what their needs are, and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.