The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management held a hearing Tuesday to review the crop insurance industry. The crop insurance program has been a big question mark in the debate over the 2007 Farm Bill.
"We have seen a host of proposals to dramatically change the current three-legged stool that is our basic farm program and we must tread carefully so as not to inadvertently harm the ability to provide adequate risk management tools that are available through crop insurance," says Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., the subcommittee chair.
House Ag Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., pointed out during the hearing that crop insurance has not become a substitute for federal farm disaster aid such as the several billion dollar supplement attached to the war spending bill in Congress.
In USDA's farm bill proposal, it recommended "gap coverage," a new crop insurance policy to cover deductibles. In testimony before the subcommittee, USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said that USDA's gap coverage proposal is still evolving.
Right now, crop insurance is booming, Collins says.
"Insured acreage, liability and premiums for 2007 are all going to expand sharply above the 2006 record levels," Collins says. "Producers also continue to increase coverage levels, with catastrophic coverage now down to only 12% of insured acreage."
The opening statements of all the witnesses are available on the Committee website at agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html.