With weighty budget constraints and fractious election year politics, writing a new farm bill in 2012 was never going to be easy. Congressional agriculture committees have already begun a series of hearings on the farm bill – with the Senate committee vowing to have a bill prepared sometime this spring -- and commodity and farm organizations have offered up farm program proposals in anticipation of the legislation.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bob Stallman, America Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president held a press conference prior to testifying at the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Thursday hearing on risk management. Stallman pushed the AFBF’s “deep loss” policy proposal that was passed in January at the federation’s annual meeting.

However, it turns out three state Farm Bureaus -- all in Mid-South – have dissented, or begun the formal dissenting process, related to the deep loss proposal. The main reasons are not novel to the region: agriculture leaders in the tri-state region of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi say that crops grown such as rice and cotton – along with an abundance of irrigated acreage – present a special set of needs and circumstances not pertinent to the rest of the country.   

“We’ve been working … on a proposal called the ‘deep loss’ program,” said Stallman. “In essence, it’s a way of flipping the government’s role in terms of the safety net for agriculture. The government would take zero to 75 percent of the risk from producers based on area-wide losses that could occur. In other words, it is a revenue risk-management program using five-year average across an area (either a county or crop-reporting district).

“The revenue from that – if there is a payment -- would be used to offset any premium or indemnity payment under an existing crop insurance policy. (That would) automatically compensate the insurance companies for the fact that the risk is being taken by the government and any payment they put out would be offset by what would be provided by the ‘deep loss’ program.

“It probably sounds more complicated than it really is. It really isn’t that complex is one reason it has applicability across all program crops, all fruits and vegetables – frankly, for any crop for which there’s a crop insurance policy.”