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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 24, 2017

Crop insurance a safety net, Loebsack says

Aug 03, 2017

By Sarah Ritter, Muscatine Journal

 

MUSCATINE — U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, visited a farm in Muscatine County Wednesday afternoon to discuss the future of the farm bill, crop insurance and other issues affecting rural Iowans.

Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s Second District, met with about 10 Muscatine farmers, as part of his tour of small businesses this week in rural communities. Farmers asked the congressman about health care, international trade and the proposed 2018 federal budget.

The Trump administration proposes a 20 percent cut in the USDA’s discretionary spending, plus tighter restrictions on government-subsidized crop insurance. In the plan, farmers participating in the federal crop insurance program would be limited to receiving $40,000 a year in subsidies, a move the administration said would affect a relatively small number of farmers.

“The farm bill ... there will be attempts to end it,” Loebsack said. “People think it’s a bailout, but we know it’s a safety net.”

Loebsack said rural farmers do have “allies” in Congress and hopes agriculture committees can help create a bipartisan solution.

Muscatine farmer Scott Eichelberger, of the Muscatine Soil and Water Conservation District, said while he agrees with some aspects of the crop insurance program, he said it conflicts with other programs in Iowa.

Programs aimed at training beginning farmers, Eichelberger said, rely on the tradition of some farmers succeeding, and others failing. He worries if every farm receives government assistance, there may not be room for new farmers to start planting.

“If you look at farming over the generations, there’s only X amount of acres of dirt out here, and as farmers get bigger, we’re going to have less,” he said. “If farmers farm longer, how are you going to get young people to start farming?”

Eichelberger supports some payment limitation on crop insurance subsidies, adding “you have to balance that safety net.”

Loebsack also asked the group about crop damage from recent storms and a drought throughout some parts of southeast Iowa.

The farmers said the Muscatine area has been fortunate, with enough rain to support crop growth, and a dry-period in June to allow for hay harvesting.

“This is the garden spot right here,” Eichelberger said.

Along with questions about farming, Andrew Zwald from NuTech Seed, asked Loebsack how the younger generation can decrease the country’s debt, and resident Jim Merideth asked how trade relations can be improved with other countries.

Loebsack emphasized the need for bipartisanship and that the “president has to be more responsible.” On health care, he said first, the country has to “stabilize the insurance market.” He said competition in the marketplace is important, but also difficult for rural communities, that may have only one hospital or few options for services.

Before stopping in Muscatine Wednesday, Loebsack visited Tipton and Grand Mound.

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