AFT also wants to increase federal funding to provide more funding for participation in ACEP. Other changes are needed in ACEP to facilitate the licensing of land trust programs, including changing the language to allow youth who were previously disenfranchised to purchase protected land.
Explaining that “crop insurance is about risk management,” the AFT wants to see more efforts in the crop insurance program to reward farmers for using alternative management practices. This includes the implementation of the USDA Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP) which provides farmers with a limited amount of money to use cover crops.
Food insurers must also recognize USDA conservation practices, such as those in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the AFT said.
The farm bill should, “Ensure that farmers are not forced to choose between crop insurance and conservation,” said Emily Liss, AFT’s public policy director.
Sheryl Hagen-Zakarison, a farmer from the Pullman, Washington area, spoke Tuesday about how her farm’s efforts to be sustainable, such as no-till and mixing its crops, are in direct conflict with crop insurance. In 2019, he was told he couldn’t get crop insurance for his winter wheat crop because he winterized lentils.
“In fact, the insurance agent said we can’t cover your crop because you did intercropping,” Hagen-Zakarison said, noting that intercropping was part of her CSP contract. “We haven’t really been able to negotiate with the crop insurance provider to be able to participate.”
Hagen-Zakarison said she faced similar challenges trying to get crop insurance for crops such as winter triticale or peas that are not grown in her area.
“It seems like you’re getting really frustrated and punished for being good and doing the right thing defensively,” Hagen-Zakarison said.
Trade groups and representatives of crop insurance companies have told lawmakers at the conference not to tie food insurance to climate protection measures. Instead, they want to keep maintenance and crop insurance as separate obligations in the farm bill.
See “Crop Insurance Companies, Lawmakers Announce ‘Do Not Destroy’ Program” here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
While not surprising, the AFT also has a long list of proposals to increase funding for security programs and expand technical support for developers as well. This includes supporting the development and implementation of climate control measures across the country.
For the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), currently, only about 30% of all applicants are paid each year. AFT would like to see more of that spread, especially for activities that improve soil health and reduce emissions.
The AFT also emphasized the need to have access to conservation programs, as well as USDA programs as a whole, for producers who were previously unlicensed.
HELPING SMALL FARMERS
Moses Momanyi, a native of Kenya who runs Dusk2Dawn Farms in Minnesota, is a newcomer to the Twin Cities area who, over time, has helped a few farmers and scoured the area for land to grow small fruit and vegetable farms. Explaining the lack of credit, he said there are many obstacles to people trying to get into agriculture.
“We saw the opportunity to find land as a big barrier for immigrants like us to find land,” said Momanyi.
AFT is calling on Congress to create an office at USDA specifically to help small farmers access USDA programs such as EQIP, CSP and crop insurance policies. In line with this, AFT also wants to expand USDA’s financial technical assistance (BTA) to support small and early stage farmers, particularly to help protect land and encourage farm relocation.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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