Our Impacts

Background & Strategy

Since 2013, AGree Advisors and Partners have been investigating a range of strategies for driving broader adoption of conservation practices through the intersection of conservation and crop insurance. In pursuit of this goal, the AGree Conservation and Crop Insurance (CCI) Task Force – comprised of researchers and academics, former USDA leadership, producers, and representatives from farmer-based, environmental, and conservation NGOs – is advancing multiple strategies to improve environmental conditions through expanded use of conservation practices and support a durable crop insurance program for producers:

Recent Impacts 

The CCITF has developed a robust strategy, actively engaged with USDA, established relationships and partnerships with national initiatives with similar interests, showcased its work at multiple conferences, and produced research since its inception. Several notable examples of the CCITF's work in 2017 and 2018 include but are not limited to the following:

  • Developed consensus policy recommendations for the 2018 Farm Bill that aim to improve producer profitability and environmental outcomes through a viable and defensible crop insurance program. 
  • Supported a cutting-edge research article on integrating soil data into crop insurance rate determinations, published in the prestigious American Journal of Agriculture Economics. The article is a critical piece of evidence showing the relationship between soil types and risk. 
  • Published a Point of View paper on Crop Insurance, Credit, and Conservation, which discusses how lending practices impact agricultural investment decisions and conservation outcomes. 
  • Met with U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committee offices and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff about opportunities to strengthen agriculture data analysis to quantify the risk reduction benefits of conservation practices and provide cost-savings benefits to the federal crop insurance program. 
  • Provided feedback and suggestions to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) about the Census of Agriculture regarding questions on conservation practice adoption, which resulted in changes to the Census.
  • Worked to support a data integration and analysis effort with multiple USDA agencies to assess the risk profiles of soil types and the yield risk impacts of conservation practices on given soil types.

The CCITF has briefed and engaged leadership and key staff in several USDA agencies and offices, including but not limited to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Economic Research Service (ERS), and Office of the Chief Economist (OCE). The Task Force has also connected and coordinated with several complementary initiatives on an ongoing basis, including but not limited to Field to Market, Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership, and National Working Group on Cover Crops and Soil Health.

Action Agenda

The Task Force is undertaking multiple activities to advance its strategies to drive broader adoption of conservation practices. In 2018, the Task Force will continue to:

  • Support analysis of information about conservation practices, yield, yield variability, crop resilience during extreme weather events, soil type, soil health, and other environmental indicators to assess the correlation between soil type and yield risk and ultimately the yield risk impacts of improvements in soil health through the use of conservation practices.
  • Advocate, where appropriate and agreed to by the Task Force, for near-term administrative changes to the federal crop insurance program that would support adoption of conservation practices. Some recommendations have already been agreed upon and sent to USDA for immediate consideration, including recommendations to eliminate cover crop termination rules and recognize NRCS practices as Good Farming Practices. Other topics include, for example, adding practice codes tracked by RMA.
  • Support a process to examine and recommend updates to USDA’s conservation data collection mechanisms and surveys, including but not limited to the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), Census of Agriculture, Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), and National Resources Inventory (NRI).
  • Advocate for improved data integration and sharing across USDA agencies and with private and public researchers, through a secure data warehouse that would fully protect data confidentiality while granting users the ability to more easily and accurately analyze data.

The Task Force is also continuing to coordinate with other complementary groups and looks forward to collaborating as opportunities arise. For more information about partnering with AGree on these efforts, please contact Todd Barker (TBarker@merid.org).