Meeting with USDA Secretary Perdue
AACI members met with Secretary Sonny Perdue, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Bill Northey, and Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre. AACI thanked the Secretary for his work to preserve crop insurance and for spreading the message through the Trump Administration that the federal and private partnership is working well. Secretary Perdue emphasized the importance of customer service and encouraged open conversations about what is working well in the program and what is not. During the 30 minute meeting, AACI answered questions from the Secretary relating to CAT (catastrophic level) coverage and prevented planting. AACI assured the Secretary that CAT coverage works and “gets participants through the gate.” The group also highlighted larger customers are necessary and service cannot be provided to the smaller farms without service to the larger farms. Secretary Perdue concluded the meeting by recognizing the need to keep the crop insurance risk pools large.
Meeting with RMA Administrator Martin barbre
AACI submitted a number of discussion topics to the Risk Management Agency and Administrator Barbre prior to the scheduled meeting. Topics included Common Land Unit (CLU) acreage requirements, rebating, and the rollout of the new dairy revenue program. Although new to the job at the time of the meeting, Administrator Barbre emphasized his mission to respect the American taxpayer while maintaining the functionality and integrity of the crop insurance program.
Meeting with House agriculture committee
AACI met with multiple professional staffers on the House Agriculture Committee who gave them an update on the status of the farm bill. The Committee staff explained the tension between the Republicans and Democrats on the SNAP portion of the House bill, which was the one of the main drivers for the bill failing to pass the week prior to AACI’s visit. Staff then gave some insight on their next steps forward to achieve final passage and explained how Chairman Conaway was working with leadership to gain support from more conservative members by allowing a vote on Rep. Goodlatte’s immigration bill prior to another vote on the farm bill. Committee staff continued to be optimistic about their chances of final passage in the following weeks.
Due to the state of the farm bill process at the time of the fly-in, AACI focused its lobbying efforts on the Senate. On May 23, the group met with a total of 60 Senate offices and met with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress and staff. Senate offices visited included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). Senators were targeted to gather intelligence ahead of the Senate farm bill vote and to give AACI members the opportunity to share the successes of the crop insurance program. The information gathered from the meetings was then used to inform further action ahead of Senate activity on S. 3042, Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The Friday before AACI’s fly-in, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 failed to pass the House of Representatives. As a result, AACI used the fly-in as an opportunity to reconnect with House members, including those who voted for and against the bill, to emphasize the importance of the program and to thank those who supported the crop insurance industry. AACI met with several offices including, but not limited to: Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Representative Ken Buck (R-CO), Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), and Representative Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The group met with a total of 13 House offices on May 24.
roundtable discussion with journalist panel
Connecting with members of the press is an important undertaking for AACI members, especially given the increased attention surrounding crop insurance. During the May fly-in, AACI staff arranged a journalist panel with Helena Bottemiller Evich, senior agriculture reporter at Politico, and Benny Johnson, reporter-at-large for The Daily Caller. The panel touched on agriculture issues, including the farm bill legislative process, as well as broader political issues in Washington.