It appeared Wednesday that most of the anxiety within the agriculture community about potential cuts to crop insurance program were alleviated following a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday afternoon that the House voted 266-167 for a budget measure that would raise the government’s borrowing limit through March 2017. The measure now moves on to the Senate, where it is widely expected to pass.
One of the sticking points to the bill had been disagreement among some lawmakers in major agricultural states, including Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., about the proposed cuts to crop insurance. Roberts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a release Tuesday that he planned to vote against an earlier version of the deal that would “raid crop insurance funding.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed cuts to crop insurance would have amounted to more than $3 billion. The version of the budget agreement voted on Wednesday, however, included an apparent understanding that the proposed cuts would be reversed later in the appropriations process.
House Agriculture Committee leaders, according to a Politico story, said Wednesday that they agreed to vote for the budget deal after being assured by “House leadership” that the crop insurance funding would be restored down the road.
Sarah Little, Roberts’ communications director, said in an e-mail Wednesday afternoon that the senator would not comment on the budget bill until Thursday at the earliest. The Senate is expected to take up the measure this week, Little said.
Mark Nelson, commodities director for the Kansas Farm Bureau, said early Wednesday afternoon that his organization was “very worried” about the potential crop insurance cuts. Nelson later said he was pleased and optimistic to hear of the apparent agreement to restore crop insurance funding.
“We think the crop insurance program is a good program, and we don’t want to see any changes to it,” Nelson said.
The public-private crop insurance program is designed to protect agriculture producers from disaster and lean growing years. Nelson said crop insurance is “used by the vast majority of Kansas farmers” and that about 93 percent of the nearly 8.5 million acres of wheat grown in the state in 2014 was insured.
The agriculture industry is responsible for about 43 percent of the total Kansas economy – around $63 billion annually – according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
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