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Senator Murray Urges USDA to Help Rain-Battered Farmers in Eastern Washington by Increasing Crop Insurance Reimbursements, Cutting Red Tape, and Visiting Impacted Communities

Aug 30 2004

Murray's letter to Crop Insurance Administrator Comes One Week after She Asked USDA Secretary Ann Veneman to Declare Spokane and Whitman Counties Disaster Areas

(Seattle, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray urged the administrator of the Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency (RMA) to take three steps to ensure that rain-battered farmers in eastern Washington are not punished by the federal crop insurance program when they bring their crops to market.

In a letter, Murray asked RMA Administrator Ross Davidson to update quality loss discounts so they more accurately reflect the marketplace, to save farmers from costly delays when their crops are sampled for quality, and to visit eastern Washington to hear from local agriculture leaders first-hand.



"Unless you act quickly, farmers could face costly delays this harvest and could be denied the crop insurance reimbursements they deserve," Murray told Davidson in her letter. "Local farmers have already seen their crops damaged by weather. They should not be punished further by an outdated, inefficient crop insurance program."



Five days ago, Murray wrote another letter to USDA Secretary Ann Venman, urging her to declare Spokane and Whitman counties as Secretarial Disaster counties.

Murray has a long history in the United States Senate of supporting disaster assistance programs for producers who have been hurt by natural disasters. She has also worked to open foreign markets, expand market access programs, and fight foreign dumping.

NOTE: For details on Murray's work to help farmers and growers recover from natural disasters, please see our Agriculture section.



(Scroll down to the section titled: "Working to Pass Ad Hoc Natural Disaster Assistance")



The text of Senator Murray's letter follows:



August 30, 2004

Mr. Ross J. Davidson, Jr.
Administrator, Risk Management Agency
United States Department of Agriculture
USDA/RMA/Stop 0801, Room 3053 - South
1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, DC 20250



Dear Administrator Davidson:



I am writing to ask you to take three immediate steps to help farmers and agri-businesses in eastern Washington who have suffered significant losses because of unseasonably heavy rain during the current harvest.



Unless you act quickly, farmers could face costly delays this harvest and could be denied the crop insurance reimbursements they deserve. Local farmers have already seen their crops damaged by weather. They should not be punished further by an outdated, inefficient crop insurance program.

Therefore, I urge you to:

  • Adjust the quality loss discounts of the crop insurance program so they accurately reflect the marketplace;
  • Immediately review the sampling procedures to make them faster, more efficient and fairer to growers;


  • and Visit eastern Washington to meet with farmers, crop insurance agents, grain warehouse managers, and grain trade officials.


These three steps will ensure that a difficult situation for our farmers does not get worse.



1. Adjust Quality Loss Discounts so They Reflect the Marketplace

Many farmers are concerned that they will not receive payments from the crop insurance program because your agency's quality loss discounts do not accurately reflect the marketplace.



Last August, a study commissioned by your agency found that existing crop insurance discount schedules were inadequate compared to actual market discounts [Millman USA study, August 2004].



I urge you to bring RMA discounts in line with the marketplace so that farmers get the crop insurance payments they deserve.



2. Make the Quality Grading System More Efficient

Second, I'm concerned that when farmers deliver their crops they will face painful and costly delays because of bureaucratic red tape. RMA guidelines require that each sample be graded individually. The industry standard, however, is to grade composite samples by lot, which is much more efficient.



Individual grading will dramatically increase the cost and time required to grade the remainder of this year's harvest. Elevator operators may be hurt by the reduced efficiency of tracking thousands of individual samples.



This grading system could be especially unfair to small producers. For example, a farmer delivering a 250-bushel truckload will pay four times the cost per bushel as a farmer who delivers 1,000-bushel in a single semi-tractor trailer. Small producers should not be penalized at the grading station.



This red tape is especially troublesome because a fairer and more efficient system (composite samples by lot) is easily available. Please explain why your agency is forcing farmers to use an inefficient grading procedure when a simpler system is used successfully by other USDA programs and the State of Washington.



3. Visit Eastern Washington

Finally, I'd like to invite you to visit eastern Washington to meet with farmers, crop insurance agents, grain warehouse managers, and grain trade officials. By hearing from them as I have, you will gain a first-hand understanding of the challenges they are facing this harvest and how the crop insurance program can be improved.



I look forward to ensuring that Washington state producers who have been hurt by natural disasters this year are included in any disaster assistance proposals that may be brought before the U.S. Senate.



I look forward to receiving your prompt response to the crop quality and sampling issues I have outlined. I do hope that you will accept my invitation to visit Washington and meet with those who utilize and implement the federal crop insurance program.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator