When President Donald Trump spoke before the American Farm Bureau Federation in January, he asked members if they liked crop insurance.
“He asked the question, our members responded enthusiastically,” recalled Dale Moore, executive director for public policy at the organization. “He looked over to where (Senate Agriculture) Chairman Roberts was sitting and said, ‘Pat, you were right, they like crop insurance, so I guess we’ll keep it.’”
A month later, Trump has proposed a budget that calls for cuts in the total crop insurance program and the federal premium that helps make crop insurance affordable for farmers, said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers.
The budget plan would reduce premium subsidies for crop insurance from an average of 62 percent to 48 percent.
That would make it harder for some farmers to participate in the program, spreading the risk over fewer acres and making the program more expensive for the remaining farmers, Goule said.
While the president can propose a budget, Congress holds the federal purse strings, Moore and Goule said. Both said they believe the House and Senate agriculture committees will shrug off the president’s proposal and produce a farm bill with strong insurance programs.
But a president’s budget outlines an administration’s priorities, Goule said.
If Trump’s proposed cuts were to be enacted into law, “they would have devastating impacts on wheat growers,” Goule said.
“It is a significant enough cut that it will make crop insurance unaffordable for many, if not most, wheat growers,” he said.
Trump also proposed cuts to the companies that deliver crop insurance to farmers.
“If you make it impossible to deliver a risk management tool and then you cut the funding for the risk management tool, then you basically set back not only the wheat growers but all farmers’ ability to protect themselves against things they can’t control, like the weather,” Goule said.
Some of the proposed cuts are held over from the Obama administration and other previous administrations, Goule said.
“OMB seems to have some sort of vendetta against agriculture — not just this administration, but across multiple administrations,” Goule said. “You see continued cuts in the budget proposals coming out from each administration, attacking crop insurance programs and farm bill programs.”
Trump was “heavily influenced” last year by organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Environmental Working Group, which don’t want to see any type of farm bill, Goule said.
Agriculture organizations need to invite such groups to their meetings so farmers and ranchers can hear directly from them that their opposition to the farm bill is “real, strong and it has money behind it,” Goule said.
“I do not see (the groups) changing their stances because this is how they raise money from their urban members who do not understand agriculture production,” Goule said.
Goule said growers are lucky to have Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky, championing the importance of the farm bill and crop insurance programs in the White House.