Tester, Walsh push USDA to implement critical crop insurance initiatives

Senators say programs must be ready in 2015 to help ensure strong Montana harvest

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh today told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the Agriculture Department needs to speed up the implementation of two critical crop insurance initiatives to support a strong Montana harvest in 2015.

Tester and Walsh want Vilsack to move forward with the Crop Margin Coverage Pilot Program and the Malt Barley Endorsement. The initiatives would support farmers growing spring wheat and barley – two of the most important crops in Montana.

But the Agriculture Department has said it might not implement the two initiatives until 2016, a possibility both Tester and Walsh find unacceptable.

“Producers have worked hard to support development of these new insurance products,” Tester and Walsh told Vilsack. “Approving these two insurance products will better enable farmers to make crop selections on the basis of market conditions, rather than the relative strengths of insurance products. It is imperative these new insurance products be implemented in 2015.”

Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, and Walsh, Montana’s only member of the Agriculture Committee, note that spring wheat and barley are already losing acres in part because there are better risk management products for corn and soybeans.

The recently approved Farm Bill – which Tester helped pass – contains the two crop insurance initiatives, as well as extending Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) through 2014, strong and permanent livestock disaster assistance programs, support for beginning farmers and ranchers, all while saving $23 billion.

Agriculture is Montana’s number one industry, producing 104.7 million bushels of spring wheat and 44.8 million bushels of barley in 2013.

Tester and Walsh’s letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is available online HERE. It is also signed by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). More information about USDA’s crop insurance policies is available online HERE.