Barley leader praises federal program that guarantees revenue
By JOHN O'CONNELL
The Idaho Barley Commission and Idaho Grain Producers Association support the draft farm bill approved April 26 by the Senate Agriculture Committee, based largely on its strength regarding crop insurance options.
The bill would do away with direct subsidy payments, countercyclical payments and the Average Crop Revenue Election program and use some of the savings to create the Average Risk Coverage program. ARC would provide growers free supplemental insurance for planted acres of wheat, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, long grain rice, medium grain rice, pulse crops, soybeans and other oilseeds and peanuts.
Kelly Olson, administrator with the IBC, said ARC is intended to help growers cover their insurance deductibles when they experience losses. ARC, which has a $50,000 payment cap, allows growers who base their insurance on their own farm revenue history the option of insuring up to 65 percent of their planted acres, and those who base insurance on a county average can cover up to 80 percent of their planted acres.
Olson also likes that the program insures farm revenue rather than simply considering bushels of a commodity, which also protects growers from significant price declines and factors in quality issues to provide a more relevant safety net.
"Insurance is the bedrock of keeping farmers in the business," Olson said.
She believes the American taxpayer owes farmers an adequate return on investment due to the large capital investments they must make and the fact that it's difficult for them to pass along escalating production costs.
Soda Springs barley grower Scott Brown, president of the National Barley Grower's Association, wrote a column in the IBC newsletter supporting the program. Brown noted ARC also differentiates irrigated from dryland acres and malting barley from feed barley.
"While we had to surrender the direct payment program, we gained what appears to be an effective and simplistic revenue-based program to cover what crop insurance and disaster programs do not," Brown wrote.
Travis Jones, executive director of the IGPA, likes what he's seen so far in the Senate but will reserve judgment until the bill is taken up on the Senate floor within the next couple of weeks. He said the Senate Agriculture Committee's bill, which cuts $24 billion from farm programs over the next decade, strikes a good balance.
"We feel the reforms in there for farm programs are reasonable and still maintain the safety net we asked them to for wheat and barley farmers, and that includes crop insurance," Jones said. "It maintains, and in some cases improves, crop insurance programs to wheat and barley farmers."
The measure must pass the full Senate, and then be reconciled with a bill that has yet to be written or passed in the House of Representatives.