U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján have introduced the Crop Insurance Fairness Act.
The bill is a response to USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in New Mexico’s mid-year reduction in Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) payments for Rio Arriba farmers.
The Crop Insurance Fairness Act would require that any adjustments made mid-year that result in a decrease in NAP payments not take effect until the following year. This ensures that farmers receive the full payments they budgeted for and anticipated.
“New Mexican farmers deserve certainty and stability,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “Farmers are small businesses owners and FSA’s arbitrary decision to cut rates would seriously damage their livelihoods and ability to run their operations. The Crop Insurance Fairness Act will protect farmers throughout New Mexico and ensure they can continue to count on NAP as a reliable safety net for times of financial hardship.”
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
“This program is a critical source of financial security for New Mexican farmers and ranchers,” Rep. Luján said. “The FSA’s decision to make substantial mid-year adjustments to producers’ payments through the NAP program is inappropriate and harms farmers and ranchers. Our legislation gives producers the certainty they deserve to accurately assess their production each year and budget appropriately to ensure stability when disaster strikes.”
“Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) wholeheartedly supports the Crop Insurance Fairness Act, which would require a notice period with respect to certain modifications of assigned yields under the noninsured crop disaster assistance program. Given extreme weather variability many farmers are facing, whether by drought or flood, they deserve certainty from the federal safety net programs they rely on to keep their farms financially viable through the remainder of the growing season, or even in the coming year. It is extremely important that any changes in the calculations of yields USDA makes mid-year not take effect until the following year,” said Dr. Dale McCall, RMFU President.
“I was surprised and extremely concerned when FSA announced mid-year that yields to farmers in Rio Arriba county would be reduced which ultimately lowered the payments that farmers were entitled to,” said Tony Casados, a farmer directly affected by FSA’s decision. “It is impossible for me to budget for one number and be told, with no warning, that I am receiving significantly less. The Crop Insurance Fairness Act will protect farmers in Rio Arriba and throughout New Mexico from arbitrary decisions that significantly affect their livelihoods. I am very excited that Representatives Lujan Grisham and Lujan are introducing this important bill.”
Reps. Lujan Grisham and Luján were made aware of this issue in August and worked quickly to address it. They sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue seeking clarification about the mid-year reduction. They also met with the Secretary in-person Sept. 7 to advocate on behalf of New Mexico farmers and ranchers who, following production losses, could be negatively impacted by reduced federal assistance.
NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when natural disasters cause low yields, cause loss of inventory, or prevent planting. Farmers and ranchers depend on NAP to plan and ensure that they can continue to run their farms in case of natural events that are out of their control. For Rio Arriba County, the 2017 crop yield, which NAP assistance is based on, was initially set at 4.18 tons/acre. The NM State USDA FSA later determined that they would be adjusting the crop yield for 2017 to 2.76 tons/acre. This significant and unexpected revision by the USDA will have serious implications for farmers or ranchers.