Wheat industry leaders are emphasizing the importance of crop insurance for farmers in the wake of a summit sponsored by organizations that want to eliminate it.
The R Street Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Heritage Foundation and other like-minded groups held a summit in Washington, D.C., last week and proposed changes to the farm bill that are “bad for farmers (and) the economy” and “misleading,” the National Association of Wheat Growers says.
Concerns about funding for crop insurance arise whenever farm bill discussions resume, said David Schemm, president of NAWG and a Sharon Springs, Kan., wheat farmer. The groups have “very little understanding of the dynamics of what crop insurance is,” he said.
For farmers, crop insurance is the top priority, Schemm said.
The groups claim farmers use crop insurance to make a profit or get paid when they should not.
NAWG must reinforce the message that farmers can pay crop insurance for years without collecting a single payment, Schemm said.
“But when disaster does strike, it does give you the opportunity to collect, just simply to make sure you’re able to farm again the next year,” he said.
NAWG has reached out in the past to members of the groups, but they tend to remain locked into their message, which can be “frustrating,” he said.
The groups also praise a free-trade market, which doesn’t always take into account the realities of the marketplace, Schemm said.
“I have a firm belief in the American farmer’s ability to compete when the playing field is level, but unfortunately, it does not always end up being a level playing field,” he said.
NAWG will continue to educate legislators and urban consumers that crop insurance must remain vital, Schemm said.
Schemm said NAWG has received mostly positive feedback from legislators that they understand the importance of crop insurance.
“I am conservatively optimistic,” Schemm said. “I really think our message has been heard and is being heard. (But ) you don’t ever want to let up making sure you’re conveying the message of how effective (crop insurance) is, because when you do let up, that’s when you can have problems.”