In one capacity or another, Don Villwock, Edwardsport, president of Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., has worked on each of the past seven farm bills. He believes the discussion and formation of the 2012 farm bill may be more vague and unique than any of the others he has worked on.
Part of it is tight budgets, part of it is that the Super Committee idea failed. And for once, it looks like farmers may have to be willing to give up something in order to still have any type of government support.
Some groups, primarily in the south, tried to persuade American Farm Bureau to adopt policy asking that besides keeping support for federal crop insurance, that AFBF support what's called 'shallow crop insurance' in addition. Basically, it would add more insurance on top of what exists now. In most cases, at least in the Midwest, with revenue insurance options and the other federally-subsidized crop insurance options, farmers can at least recover their costs, and in some cases do better than that, if they have a bad year, as many did this year. But in the Midwest, most farmers only collect perhaps one year or two years in 10, he notes.
In southern states, where weather is more fickle and soils not as productive, many have losses more years than not. The net result is that their yield levels for crop insurance purposes are low. Crop insurance is not helping them recover their costs in case of a crop failure in many cases. What some proposed was more coverage that would go from existing levels up to 90 or 95% of expected yield and income.
"That just wouldn't be healthy over time," Villwock believes. "It would take the risk almost entirely out of farming. If you take out the risk, you take out the chance for rewards too. I believe there would be problems in going that direction."The policy AFBF has adopted to date, and Viillwock supports, calls for continuing crop insurance as it is, with federal backing, but not adding the shallow provisions concept. The fact that direct payments will be eliminated is almost a given, Villwock says. That's why crop insurance becomes a key issue. He's comfortable that there is support for keeping the crop insurance system in place.