A highway bill passed by Congress Thursday will restore $3 billion to the federal crop insurance program.
Known as the FAST Act, the five-year, $305 billion transportation bill was approved 83-16 by the Senate and 359-65 by the House. It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
The deal proved to be the avenue for addressing October’s unexpected cut to the program in the bipartisan budget deal, which would have reduced capped insurers’ rate of return. When news of the proposed reduction emerged, farm state legislators, ag groups, and crop insurance organizations quickly protested, arguing that farm programs had already been trimmed enough.
“Crop insurance is a lifeline for jobs and families across rural America, and has already received $12 billion in cuts since 2008,” said U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in a statement earlier this week, as the fix developed. “It was unfair to try forcing even deeper cuts on hardworking farmers.”
Crop insurers also asserted that the reduction would hurt the viability of their industry. ““The likely result of additional cuts would be increased industry consolidation, reduced choice in insurance providers for all farmers, and a dramatic decline in the availability and service of policies,” said a joint statement from the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, American Association of Crop Insurers, and the National Crop Insurance Service.
President Obama is expected to sign the highway bill.