The National Corn Growers Association is not surprised that the ad hoc disaster assistance package announced by USDA this week was smaller than the $1.5 billion Senate Ag Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., requested. However; NCGA Senior Public Policy Director Sam Willett was surprised at the exclusions and restrictions USDA tied to the program
"It's very disappointing that USDA decided on policy that essentially picks winners and losers," Willett said. "This program has been limited to four different crops that have been impacted by high precipitation and moisture situations in 26 states."
Willett says excluding corn and other crops raises questions, particularly for those producers who faced other adverse weather conditions and resulting increases in harvest costs last year. He says differentiating assistance based on certain weather conditions doesn't set a good precedent.
Those are concerns NCGA has addressed with USDA's Farm Service Agency. Willett says it's important that producers are treated equitably in the future.
Willett says FSA did explain how they decided on eligibility for this assistance and that a big factor was the fact that disaster payments from the SURE program is falling short, especially in the South.
Not only does NCGA want to understand the analysis USDA used to determine which crops and which farmers were most impacted by disasters in 2009, but Willett says they want to seize this opportunity to look at the shortcomings in the federal crop insurance and SURE programs.
"We need some more innovative crop insurance products that actually better match up with the actual production risks," Willett said. "The way the SURE program is designed, if you don't buy up high levels of coverage it's unlikely you are going to receive some help from that program when you are impacted by natural disasters."
Willett says it's important to take proactive steps to address the gaps in protection. He says that's something Congress can do when writing the next farm bill.