Oklahoma Wheat Growers President Curtis Vap is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a key provision of the Farm Bill for Oklahoma producers who have faced multiple years of severe drought.
“Chairman Lucas succeeded in including a key provision for producers,” said Vap. “The provision would allow producers to maintain adequate crop insurance to cover their expected production in exchange for paying a higher premium to cover any additional liability.”
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Although the provision of the Farm Bill became effective on February 7 when the Farm Bill was signed into law, USDA “has refused to implement it,” ultimately concluding it would be delayed until 2016. Though Tuesday was the sales closing for wheat insurance, USDA could and should implement the provision before acreage certification.
The provision provides immediate relief to Oklahoma producers and other producers around the country who farm in counties hit by extreme natural disasters, including the recent record-breaking drought. Under rules in place prior to the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill, the yield a producer may insure in a given year hinges on what the producer yielded for that crop in the previous 10 years in which the crop was planted. Depending on the number of crops in rotation, the 10 year yield history can go back 20 and even 30 years. This creates a lag on actual yields because technology in farming has resulted in substantially increased yields in more recent years.
The lag is made even worse when extreme weather events that do not reflect a producer’s production capability further reduce county-wide yields. The provision crafted by Chairman Lucas addresses the problem associated with extreme natural disasters by allowing producers to exclude from their history those yields where the yield for the entire county was 50 percent or more below the county’s 10-year average. However, the producer electing to exclude a yield under the provision would be required to pay for the increased liability.
“This is a straight-forward, common sense provision,” said Vap. “But, instead of carrying out the law, USDA decided on day one that they were going to ignore the law and delay relief to thousands of producers across the country dealing with inadequate crop insurance coverage on account of a string of drought years not seen since the 1950s,” President Vap added. “This relief is vital and needs to be implemented immediately.”