The federal crop insurance program should be modified to help farmers meet deadlines, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says in a letter sent to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns today.
Harkin raises the concerns after many farmers had difficulty last week meeting the federal program's deadline after winter storms caused power outages and travel problems.
"It is unfair that farmers already reeling from tough winter storms then had to scramble to gather enough information to make coverage decisions in time to meet the deadline," Harkin says.
After hearing from farmers, Harkin's office contacted USDA's Risk Management Agency to request an extension of the sales deadline of a few weeks for counties affected by the storms. Harkin's office was told the agency did not have the authority to extend the date.
"USDA should have the authority to extend the sales deadline in circumstances like these and should provide information on this program in enough time for farmers to plan for the year ahead," said Harkin. "I ask the USDA to work with us to modify the federal crop insurance program so that we can avoid these problems next year."