Opening Statement: Republican Leader Austin Scott General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Hearing: “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Stakeholder Perspectives on Title XI Crop Insurance”
Washington, July 20, 2022
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairwoman Bustos, for convening this important hearing to discuss the Federal Crop Insurance Program.
Today, crop insurance stands as the cornerstone of the safety net for many of our producers, but the program, as we know it, did not come about overnight. Though various forms of federal crop insurance date back to the 1930s, it wasn’t until 1980, when critical reforms were made to create a public-private partnership, that the foundation was laid for the program we have today. By leveraging the private sector and incentivizing competition amongst companies, producers now have access to a dynamic system that provides our farmers with the highest levels of service. Additional reforms in 1994 and 2000 further accelerated the growth of the program and collectively increased insured acreage, liability, and coverage levels to where they are now.
While crop insurance has been remarkably successful, it is not perfect. I hear from producers in the Southeast that higher levels of coverage are often too expensive to justify the cost. And many fruit and vegetable farmers in my area do not have crop insurance policies available to them, leaving the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program – or NAP – as their only risk management option.
I believe that in the next farm bill, one of the best investments this Committee can make is further enhancements to crop insurance that provide producers affordable options to increase coverage. Multiple policies such as the Supplemental Coverage Option, Enhanced Coverage Option, Stacked Income Protection for Upland Cotton, Hurricane Wind-index and Margin Protection are all geared toward helping farmers reduce the incredibly high deductibles for insurance. We need to thoroughly examine these policies and determine if they are doing an adequate job of filling this gap, and if not, what tweaks might be needed to provide higher levels of affordable coverage.
Since 2017, Congress has provided additional assistance to producers in the form of ad hoc disaster aid. This aid has been a critical lifeline for many farmers in my district, particularly after the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in 2018. However, inefficiencies in delivery, the delay in funding and payments, and the uncertainty of if or when Congress may act underscores the benefits and importance of having a well-functioning insurance program. Crop insurance delivers timely assistance in the wake of a disaster and provides a level of protection that farmers and their lenders can depend on.
It's important to note that approximately 90% of our country’s food supply comes from 12% of our farmers. At a time of instability and economic turmoil throughout the world, it’s crucial that this committee does everything it can to assist farmers and ensure they’re around to put food on our tables.
I’m looking forward to hearing from our witnesses today. Their insights – as a part of the delivery system, product development, and use of the programs, will provide valuable perspectives of the crop insurance industry. I want to say thank you to them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to be with us here today and Madam Chair, I yield back.