Roughly 98.2% of eligible farmers heeded the call to file the proper paperwork certifying conservation compliance to qualify for crop-insurance premium subsidies, USDA announced Friday.
Under the 2014 farm bill, Congress extended conservation compliance provisions to producers who buy crop insurance, but do not participate in traditional commodity or conservation programs. That translated into producers filing compliance paperwork on roughly an additional 1.5 million acres of highly-erodible land and 1.1 million acres of wetlands.
USDA officials noted the department engaged in aggressive outreach to get those landowners and farmers to file the appropriate AD-1026 forms with the Farm Service Agency. The department sent out 50,000 letters and postcards as well as made 25,000 phone calls to producers alerting them to the changes that could affect their eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies.
Regarding the 1.8% of landowners or farmers who did not file the proper forms, USDA suggested the majority are no longer farming or may have filed forms with name or detail discrepancies that can still be reconciled. USDA will still grant exemptions to newly insured producers to certify their compliance.
Conservation compliance is a last-ditch enforcement mechanism for USDA to deal with soil erosion on highly erodible lands or wetland violations. Compliance is enforced in about 20 states nationwide. USDA violation reports going back to 2003 show nearly two dozen states have not had any conservation compliance violations.
In 2014, USDA cited 147 producers in 15 states with potential lost benefits of $497,446, of which USDA reinstated payments of $326,523, which means the producers were later deemed back in compliance.
In 2013, USDA cited 446 producers spread over 14 states. Of the $7.3 million in potential lost farm-program benefits, nearly $6.3 million was reinstated to the producers.
In 2012, USDA reported 342 violations across 17 states that initially took away $7.1 million in farm-program payments, but USDA later reinstated $5 million of those payments.
Oddly enough, the House Appropriations Committee has language in its 2016 funding bill for USDA that would block the department for penalizing crop-insurance premium subsidies until 2017. Under the House language, any producer that comes into compliance before June 30, 2016, would be eligible for insurance-premium assistance.