October 16, 2018

Cortez Masto Joins Letter Urging USDA to Reverse Reductions in Coverage for Rangeland Crop Insurance Program

Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined a bipartisan letter led by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), urging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to reconsider the Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) recent decision to reduce the policy protection amounts value for crop insurance within the Pasture, Rangeland, and Foraging (RPF) program. These insurance reductions could affect alfalfa famers, cattlemen, and dairy farmers in at least five Nevada counties who utilize this program to mitigate the effects of long-term droughts.

“This change, which came without warning and in contravention of assurances provided to cattlemen that no major changes would be made to the program for Crop Year 2019, puts 32,000 ranchers throughout the country at great financial risk, said the senators. “While we recognize that policy planning may be changed as deliberations proceed, the failure to notify affected producers that previous assurances were no longer operative is an unacceptable way for the government to interact with the public.”

The senators continued, “We hope that you will take these concerns into account before RMA implements the reduced county base values for Crop Year 2019. Rather than implementing these significant changes on such short notice, maintaining 2018 levels for the coming year while conducting a thorough and inclusive deliberative process to determine county base values for Corp Year 2020 would be appropriate. The tens of thousands of American producers who rely on this program deserve much better.”

PDF of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write to request the reconsideration of drastic, sudden reductions in county base values used by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to calculate policy protection amounts in the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) crop insurance program. This change, which came without warning and in contravention of assurances provided to cattlemen that no major changes would be made to the program for Crop Year 2019, puts 32,000 ranchers throughout the country at great financial risk.

USDA’s justifications for the reductions—that they are necessary to ensure the policies’ actuarial soundness and reduce improper payments—are not furthered by the new base values. It is our understanding that the reduction in county base values has the effect of lowering coverage, premiums, and benefits by the same proportion, thus having minimal impact on loss ratio and actuarial soundness. Similarly, if RMA seeks to reduce improper payments, they should prioritize strict enforcement of the rules against fraudulent activity, not punish producers who have followed the rules.

Policyholders inform us that these reductions are especially harmful because, in planning for the coming year, they relied on RMA’s assurances made last month that no significant changes would be made to the program. While government agencies need not disclose their policies to stakeholders before they are officially announced, misleading statements are another matter entirely. While we recognize that policy planning may be changed as deliberations proceed, the failure to notify affected producers that previous assurances were no longer operative is an unacceptable way for the government to interact with the public.

We hope that you will take these concerns into account before RMA implements the reduced county base values for Crop Year 2019. Rather than implementing these significant changes on such short notice, maintaining 2018 levels for the coming year while conducting a thorough and inclusive deliberative process to determine county base values for Crop Year 2020 would be appropriate. The tens of thousands of American producers who rely on this program deserve much better.

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