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During Farm Bill hearing, concerns raised about crop insurance

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U.S Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas joined Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan Friday at a Farm Bill hearing in Jonesboro to discuss mistakes made in past bills.

Ranking members of the U.S Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry visited Arkansas as part of a series of hearings to craft the 2023 Farm Bill.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, was accompanied Friday by the chairwoman of the committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, to hear recommendations from those involved in the agriculture industry.

“Arkansas agricultural producers help feed and clothe the world. As the backbone of the natural state’s economy, it’s important to seek the input of our farmers and ranchers to strengthen and improve the policies impacting their operations,” Boozman said in a press release.

Arkansas has about 42,000 family farmers and ranchers operating on 14-million acres of land, with the sales of crops and livestock equaling $9.7 billion, according to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s website.

Mickey Latour, dean of the College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University, said with recent geopolitical unrest it’s important to help American farmers and ranchers.

“We can compete with anyone on the face of Earth, but what we can’t compete against are other government," Latour said. "For various reasons, they would like to dictate the world food supply. Because of that and a variety of other issues it makes our next farm bill one of the most important pieces of legislation in our country."

All of those who spoke during the hearing in Jonesboro urged Boozman and Stabenow to improve crop insurance. Nathan Reed, chairman of American Cotton Producers, said current insurance policies haven’t kept pace with events that can ruin a harvest.

“Recent disasters have been more extreme than the essential assistance commodity programs and crop insurance products can provide. Recent trade disputes have caused disarray in our export markets,” Reed said. “More resources are needed. We ask the committee to work with leadership of both parties to provide long-term solutions to these challenges.”

Lawson Connor, an economist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Research Extension, said banks are more willing to lend if farmers have crop insurance because the risk is lower for lenders. Crop insurance covers the difference for farmers if their yields are lower than expected.

Stabenow expressed optimism about passage of the next Farm Bill.

“Our last Farm Bill passed with the most bipartisan support ever. The bipartisan tradition of holding field hearings provides crucial information as we begin the process of writing a new bill,” Stabenow said.