House bill would ‘re-couple’ conservation compliance and crop insurance

A bill introduced Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives would require farmers to once again comply with certain conservation provisions to receive federal crop insurance.

Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced the Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013 to “re-couple” conservation compliance to crop insurance.

Conservation compliance has been part of the federal Farm Bill since 1985 and was linked to crop insurance until 1996, when it was “de-coupled” as a requirement for receiving crop insurance.

The version of the Farm Bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee consolidates or eliminates many direct payment programs requiring compliance and replaces them with crop insurance.

The Crop Insurance Accountability Act will ensure these land protections are maintained.

Dale Hall, Ducks Unlimited CEO.

“Farmers and ranchers deserve a safety net against severe weather and natural disasters,” Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall said in a statement. “But it’s just as crucial to make sure that crop insurance isn’t an incentive to destroy wetlands and grasslands that protect drinking water, mitigate the impacts of floods and provide habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. The Crop Insurance Accountability Act ensures the continuation of these basic conservation measures.”

Hall was in Bismarck this week for a “Prairie Summit” convened by DU to address the crisis currently facing the Prairie Pothole Region in the face of increasing wetland drainage and energy development. The event drew leaders from NGOs and agencies across the country, including Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Howard Vincent, CEO of Pheasants Forever.

According to a DU news release, more than 90 percent of agriculture producers already participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s voluntary conservation compliance programs. Farmers and ranchers who believe the costs outweigh the benefits of compliance may opt out at any time.

The Senate Farm Bill included a provision re-coupling conservation compliance to crop insurance, but the Farm Bill reported out by the House Agriculture Committee did not.

“Congressmen Fortenberry and Thompson are trying to protect our nation’s wetlands and highly erodible lands with this bill,” Hall said in a news release. “Ducks Unlimited stands among the many conservation, agriculture and taxpayer protection organizations who appreciate their leadership.”

Several other organizations have joined DU in supporting the bill: American Association of Crop Insurers, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Farmland Trust, American Society of Agronomy, American Soybean Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Audubon, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Science Society of America, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Izaak Walton League of America, Land Improvement Contractors of America, National Association of State Conservation Agencies, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils, National Conservation District Employees Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Pollinator Partnership, Quail Forever, Soil and Water Conservation Society, Soil Science Society of America, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Mississippi, World Wildlife Fund, R Street Institute, Cost of Government Center, American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Less Government, Center for Individual Freedom and National Taxpayers Union.

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