BY TIMOTHY EGGERT
Illinois Farm Bureau issued an action request Thursday, asking FB ACT members to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to refrain from implementing stricter limits on the use of atrazine.
Clay Abbott likely wouldn’t be farming today if he hadn’t insured his 2015 corn crop.
During the month of June that year, at least 30 inches of rain fell across southeastern Kankakee County, drowning fields and stunting the potential for high yields.
“The corn just couldn’t handle it. A lot of it made it about chest high and just kind of gave up,” said Abbott, adding his crop ended up averaging less than 100 bushels per acre.
He filed a crop insurance claim and received a payment. While it wasn’t enough to make Abbott’s operation “completely whole,” it allowed him to continue farming. He described crop insurance as a program “that’s been working.”
“Overall, ... most farmers say it does what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “I know it’s worked on our farm.”
Abbott, along with eight other Illinois Farm Bureau members, reiterated that message in meetings with members of Illinois’ congressional delegation as part of IFB’s Leaders to Washington program.
While on Capitol Hill, IFB members outlined their top priorities for the 2023 farm bill: Do no harm to federal crop insurance, maintain the link between the legislation’s nutrition and commodity titles and pass the bill on time.
They delivered those priorities to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, as well as U.S. Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield; Robin Kelly, D-Matteson; Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap; Mary Miller, R-Oakland; Eric Sorensen, D-Moline; Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and their staffs.
A handful of those lawmakers — Bost, Budzinski, Miller and Sorensen — sit on the House Agriculture Committee, which along with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is expected to accelerate farm bill negotiations this spring.
“As the Senate begins its work on the farm bill, I appreciate hearing firsthand experiences from the members of the Illinois Farm Bureau and will continue to work closely with them as we craft the right federal policies that strengthen the Illinois farming sector,” Durbin, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, said in a press release sent Wednesday following his meeting with IFB members.
“Now is an ideal time to be on the Hill, meeting with members of Congress and putting the right ideas in their heads for the 2023 farm bill,” said Adam Nielsen, IFB director of national legislation and policy development. “Illinois agriculture was represented well this week.”
Durbin wasn’t the only elected official to seem receptive of IFB’s message, said Dane Stayton, a Macoupin County grain farmer, who has 12 years experience working as a crop insurance agent.
“I think we made it very loud and clear on the Hill that crop insurance does not need to be revamped,” Stayton said, adding that Duckworth agreed that crop insurance “is very actuarially sound and a good process that pays very close to the loss last year.”
Members in that meeting and others also communicated the need to update the reference prices used in calculating payments under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. PLC payments are triggered when market year average prices for commodities fall below their PLC reference prices.
Corn’s 2023 reference price, for instance, is set at $3.70 per bushel, meaning the corn prices that have been hovering near $7 would need to drop by about 50% before farmers would receive a PLC payment.
“We’re looking at a pretty big retracement in price before we have any support there,” Abbott said, noting he’d also like to see reference prices reset under the upcoming farm bill.
While no PLC payments were triggered in Illinois for the 2021 crop year — yields were decent and commodity prices remained high — farmers still invest in and value the risk management tool.
And their regard for federal farm safety-net programs has especially increased under persistently high input costs and extreme weather events, Stayton said.
“Crop insurance and a safety net to try to mitigate the risk involved not only helps farmers sleep at night knowing what their minimum revenue likelihood is, but also that information helps with the decision making on the lender side as well,” Stayton said.
“Knowing that there is a floor, and in some cases it’s close to a break-even, knowing that ensures that next year they can farm, their kids can farm and the farm can progress forward,” Stayton said.
This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.