MORRIS, Minn. - Maintaining a strong, locally-administered crop insurance program is important for small farmers and should be maintained in the 2012 Farm Bill, a local farmer told members of Sen. Amy Klobuchar's staff at a regional meeting at the West Central Research and Outreach Center on Wednesday.
Three members of Sen. Amy Klobuchar's staff - Chuck Ackman and Andy Martin, outreach directors for agriculture and rural issues, and Adam Durand, legislative assistant specializing in agriculture and rural issues - stopped in Morris as part of a nine-stop tour to learn more about what constituents want to see in the Farm Bill.
"Ideally by hearing nine different meetings in nine different areas of the state, we're getting a composite feel for what Minnesota thinks of the Farm Bill," said Ackman.
Mike Schneider, a family farmer with MTM Farms and small business owner, said one program he would not change is the crop insurance program.
"As a younger producer, trying to keep the family farm in the family, crop insurance is paramount for us to help give [lenders] a lot more backing," said Schneider. "If that gets minimized or made a less viable backstop, so to speak, it's really going to impede the young producer."
Schneider also said he liked working with a local insurance agent rather than shifting signup to the Farm Service Agency.
"Frankly, we're understaffed the way it is," said Schneider. "It's a very nuanced program that definitely is unique to each individual producer, as far as their needs. ... Having a local agent that understands that, knows our farm, and the ability for those guys to still make a decent living is important too."
Ackman told the group that crop insurance has been a consistent topic at each of the meetings, and that most farmers have echoed Schneider's comments.
Another farmer at the meeting said he would like to see a decoupling of the conservation programs from the subsidy part of the farm programs. As the program is designed, in order to put some land in CRP, a landowner has to be enrolled in farm programs, which he thought would be a deterrent to people who otherwise would like to participate in the conservation programs.
"If I could, I would not even take the subsidy; I don't care for having a direct payment," Dave Jungst said.
The stop in Morris was one of nine regional meetings this week. Other meeting locations included Chatfield, Austin, Mankato, Worthington, Marshall, East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Alexandria.