Ernst leads bipartisan effort to support farmers when commodity prices fall

A safety net program that protects farmers against commodity prices plummeting to damaging levels would be strengthened under legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Tuesday.

Implemented under the 2014 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Level (ARC-CO) program makes payments to farmers when crop revenue in a county drops below levels guaranteed under the program. Current processes for determining county yields, however, can adversely impact farmers with cropland in multiple counties.

The measure introduced by Ernst and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) would make changes to the ARC-CO program in the upcoming Farm Bill so that county-level yield calculations are more accurate.

“In Iowa, 97 percent of our farmers’ corn acres and 98 percent of their soybean acres are enrolled in the ARC-CO program,” Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, said. “Unfortunately, some of our farmers have experienced payment discrepancies due to the program’s reliance on administrative county lines, rather than a farm’s actual physical location.”

The measure would direct the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to use Risk Management Agency data for yield calculations whenever possible, and it would make a provision permanent that bases safety net payments on what is owed to producers in the actual county in which a farm is located.

“I am glad to join my colleague, Sen. Heitkamp, in this bipartisan effort to address these disparities,” Ernst said. “Specifically, this legislation will work to ensure the data and process used by the Farm Service Agency to determine payments to our farmers are not unfairly affected by state or federal boundaries that have no bearing on a farm’s yield.”

FSA state committees would also be given discretion to adjust yield data estimates in response to unexplainable variations between neighboring counties under the bill in an effort to make payments more accurate.

“I will continue to use our farmers’ feedback to address their concerns and provide them the support they need,” Ernst said.