New farm bill brings added protection


According to the USDA, the insurance plan is for any farm with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities. Courtesy Michigan Farm Bureau

After being engulfed in a trade war between the U.S., Mexico, Canada and China, farmers now have some positives to look forward to this year.

The 2018 Farm Bill, or Agriculture Improvement Act, was signed into law last month, and it brings with it adjustments and new policies.

John Kran, national legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau, said one of the improvements in the bill is Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), which allows farmers to buy an insurance policy that covers their entire farm as opposed to buying crop insurance that covers certain commodities like apples or tart cherries.

WFRP provides a risk management safety net to farmers who lose insured revenue due to an “unavoidable natural cause.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the insurance plan is for any farm with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities (both crops and livestock), or those marketing to local, regional, farm-identity preserved, specialty or direct markets.

“(The law) changes the definition of beginning farmers who are eligible for Whole Farm Revenue,” Kran said. “New and beginning farmers in the past had access to WFRP for five years. Now, they can become qualified for 10 years. So, more folks will be able to take advantage of that when they are in the beginning part of their careers. With that beginning farmer qualification, there are incentives and discounts for buying the insurance policy.”

In an effort to focus more on farmers who raise livestock, the revamped farm bill includes a new policy. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the farm bill now includes a local food policy, which is expected to be developed in the coming years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency.

The local food policy would be oriented toward livestock, poultry and specialty crops in urban, suburban and rural settings,” the NSAC stated. “This would include direct-to-consumer and farm-to-institution programs, community supported agriculture, as well as greenhouse/rooftop/hydroponic production. The policy would direct that local price premiums be included in revenue determinations.”

Kran said the other portion of the law relates to WFRP. It requires the Risk Management Agency to work with WFRP stakeholders to get advice from farmers and others on how to improve the program and make it better.

“There hasn’t been a ton of farmers who have used whole farm revenue yet, but I do think that as it improves, more people will become aware of it,” he said. “It is fairly new, so we have some kinks that we need to work out over time and find things that can be updated or can be streamlined, and that is what the new bill will allow us to do.”

WFRP originated from the first farm bill that was signed into law in 2014.

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