PIA Agents Fly in to Advocate on Crop Insurance

A few of the participants outside the office of Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)

This week, crop insurance agents from PIA affiliates from North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota came to Washington, D.C. to advocate on a variety of issues related to the federal crop insurance program.  

Crop insurance provides our nation’s farmers with the ability to manage their risk while providing Americans with a safe, strong, and dependable food supply. While the Farm Bill, which authorizes the federal crop insurance program, does not expire until December 2023, PIA is currently engaged with Congress on several time-sensitive, important issues. To ensure Congress hears agents’ views on these matters, PIA members met with Senators; House members; staff with the House and Senate Agriculture and Appropriations committees; and the administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA), Marcia Bunger and members of her staff, to discuss the following issues:

Inflation Relief for Crop Insurance Agents

PIA is working with allies to encourage Congress to include provisions in House and Senate appropriations reports that would begin to address the inflation adjustment issue. The House Agriculture Appropriations Bill includes report language explicitly providing monetary relief for specialty crops, and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill includes report language confirming that the USDA has the legal authority to reinstate the inflation adjustment and provide equitable relief for specialty crops. 

While they were here, PIA members encouraged Congress to adopt these two provisions to provide some inflation relief for crop insurance agents. If these two provisions are adopted, it will make clear Congress’s view that the RMA has the legal authority to provide administrative and operating (A&O) inflation adjustment relief for all crop agents. It will also provide some immediate relief to the specialty crop market, because that market’s inherent characteristics mean its circumstances, especially now, when the nation is in a period of substantial inflation, are severe and urgent.

Provide Crop Agents with a Seat at the Table

The federal crop insurance program is a highly technical program that relies on the expertise of independent insurance agents. However, despite the pivotal role agents play in delivering this federal food safety net, agents effectively have no voice in regulatory decision-making. The Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA), for example, is negotiated by the RMA and Approved Insurance Producers (AIPs), and the results of those negotiations are only conveyed to agents once final. For years, regulatory decisions have negatively affected agents without their having an opportunity to even voice their concerns. Agents have earned a seat at the table.

Throughout their meetings, PIA members discussed a variety of ways agents could continue to cultivate their relationship with RMA and serve as resources for the agency in a more formal, ongoing advisory capacity. They particularly noted the need for RMA and AIPs to consult with agents when the SRA is renegotiated. RMA, AIPs, and agents will be better served if the agent perspective is factored in during the negotiations because agents are so comprehensively affected by the outcome of those negotiations.

During their visits, PIA agents encouraged Congressional offices to support the creation of such a mechanism during the renegotiation of the Farm Bill. In the meantime, PIA will continue to engage with Congress and the RMA on issues that affect crop agents and farmers.

PIA ND members meet with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) (center)

Save the Date: 2023 PIA Advocacy Day!

The crop insurance fly-in this week was the final event in our 2022 series of year-long advocacy events, which gave agents the chance to meet with federal policymakers on the issues that matter most to them. This year’s rolling fly-ins were critical in advancing the interests of PIA members on our most pressing issues of focus, and we thank all the participants for their advocacy and generous contributions of time and expertise

PIA members should save the dates for our 2023 in-person Advocacy Day events, which are scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 and Wednesday, May 10. While 2023 returns us to our large, multi-issue congressional fly-in, rest assured: PIA’s advocacy―on crop issues and elsewhere―is year-round.