Ohio farmers expressed strong support for crop insurance Monday during a hearing with members of the House Agriculture Committee Monday, but some growers wanted the guidelines to be means tested or focus more on promoting climate-friendly practices.
Bill Myers, a farmer in Northeast Ohio, urged Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, not to cut premium subsidies, noting that farmers are facing increased input costs and rising interest rates would have to fight.
He said the disaster programs that existed before the current crop insurance system failed to provide assistance when farmers needed it most.
“I would suggest that you be really careful not to lower the level of subsidies because at this point with increasing inputs, fuel and everything else that’s happened to us, it’s going to be difficult for farming,” he said.
He added, “Let’s be proactive and make sure we don’t create a problem or pull the rug out from under the producer if we can’t afford it.”
Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan told lawmakers the program needed reform to address climate change.
“I think we probably need to reconfigure crop insurance to reward farmers for building soil health,” Logan said. “By doing this, we can both improve overall farming resilience and save money on crop insurance payments. “
He didn’t elaborate on this idea; the Witnesses were only allowed to address the legislature for a few minutes.
Eli Dean, an organic farmer whose family owns a 750-acre farm near Sandusky, said the crop insurance program ensures producers would be compensated quickly after a disaster, but he suggested increasing the level of benefits for very large farms to reduce.
Congress should “set some limits, caps, so the biggest farms in the country don’t keep getting bigger while the smallest and the barely medium-sized ones like ours can’t keep up,” Dean said.
But Paul Herringshaw, a member of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, said a top priority for Ohio farmers is protecting the current insurance system, which he says has come under attack from both the left and the right. He said lawmakers should look for ways to improve the program “both in terms of effectiveness and cost.”
Herringshaw, who runs farms near Bowling Green, also called for the reference price for wheat to be raised, saying the current price “does not reflect current production costs”.
According to a recent analysis by economists at Ohio State University and the University of Illinois, the cost of wheat production in 2022 far exceeds the projected reference prices in the programs to cover price losses and agricultural risks, as market increases for wheat lag far behind price increases for wheat Wheat was left behind by corn and soybeans. The 2024 PLC reference is estimated at $5.50, the legal minimum, while the ARC price is estimated at $5.39 per bushel.
Some growers also urged lawmakers to consider the needs of farmers who grow fruit, vegetables and other specialty crops.
Kristy Buskirk, who grows organic produce and cut flowers near Tiffin, said local blast freezing facilities are needed to facilitate local food marketing.
“We want more investment in local and regional food systems,” she said.
Vegetable grower Bob Jones of Huron, Ohio, found that specialty crops received only a relatively small percentage of appropriations in the farm bill; The vast majority of funding goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and spending on agricultural commodities goes primarily to row crops and dairy producers.
“We get the tick on the tail at the end of the dog,” Jones said of specialty crop growers.
The sugar program also received some attention. Kirk Vashaw, CEO of Spangler Candy Co. in Bryan, Ohio, which makes a line of popular candies and is the only maker of candy canes in the United States, appealed to lawmakers to revise the sugar program to lower the price of the commodity.
Vashaw said the company has 40 jobs in Ohio and wants to bring back 200 more that are located at a manufacturing facility in Mexico. To do this, the company must be able to purchase sugar in the United States at free market prices, he said.
The USDA supports domestic sugar prices by regulating sugar imports.
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