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Kentucky Farm Bureau seeks answers in health care crisis



Kentucky has a health care crisis that is affecting Kentuckians across all industries, including agriculture. As the unified voice of our member families, the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) is working to find a solution.

Last month, I was in Washington testifying about the importance of the 2018 Farm Bill to our rural communities. Now, KFB has another unique opportunity to improve life for our member families and all of Kentucky by fighting for health care reform with one simple priority in mind: reduce costs for consumers.

We applaud Congress for working towards a solution to solve the current health care crisis. The Affordable Care Act took power from patients and states, giving it to the federal government resulting in unmanageable costs and lost options.

There is no doubt that reform is needed quickly – reform that is fiscally responsible and leads to a healthier Kentucky. Reforms should give Kentucky more control than the federal government when it comes to health care but most importantly it should give consumers affordable options.

As Washington continues to craft exactly what health care reform looks like, KFB encourages Congress to add a provision that would allow individuals to join through associations to buy health coverage under an Association Health Plan.

An Association Health Plan allows farmers, including the self-employed, to pool together across state lines through membership in trade or professional associations such as KFB and purchase health coverage for their families and employees. In 1990, there were as many as 1,000 Associated Health Plans. Today, there are less than 200 due to tightening regulations.

What would an Associated Health Plan mean for an organization like KFB? It would mean that if we choose to participate, we would have greater bargaining power when negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our members.

It would reduce premiums and make health insurance more affordable for almost all of our members and their families. Choice and reduction of costs for our members is the goal of any health care reform we support.

Kentucky agriculture provides a dynamic growth opportunity for the Commonwealth. Getting this health care reform legislation right is important to that growth. Farm families must be able to pay for health insurance, and the costs of that health insurance must not deter them from staying in the agriculture industry; a key component of our state’s economy.

As the Kentucky agriculture community works this harvest season to bring food to your table and contribute enormously to the state economy,

I request that you join Kentucky Farm Bureau in asking Congress to include a mechanism for an Association Health Plan to become a viable option for our member families and all people across the Commonwealth. Call 202-224-3121 to let your Senators and Representatives know that Association Health Plans should be a part of any health care reform legislation.

Mark Haney is president of the Kentucky Farm Bureau and owner of Haney’s Appledale Farm in Nancy, Ky.

Farm bill could help farmers, soil health and water quality



Do you care about soil health, clean water and farmers’ ability to make a living and steward their land? Time to tune in. Congress has started work on the next farm bill, and now is when they need to hear from you: the voters.

The next farm bill offers a major opportunity to support conservation through the crop insurance program. Crop insurance is a must-have for most farmers. Linking crop insurance to conservation is therefore a smart way for Congress to invest taxpayer dollars in supporting farmers and strengthening stewardship of natural resources.

However, many farmers may be hesitant to use conservation practices due to confusing crop insurance regulations. They may ask, “Does planting cover crops impact eligibility?” Congress could eliminate this barrier by making clear that all conservation activities count as good farming practices under crop insurance.

The farm bill could also strengthen the tie between farmers’ conservation practices and their eligibility for crop insurance subsidies. Congress already passed a measure requiring farmers with highly erodible land or wetlands to meet a conservation threshold in order to receive crop insurance subsidies.

It makes sense to expand this and offer a higher crop insurance subsidy to all farmers who practice conservation. These individuals are preserving the land for future generations.

Whether you are a farmer or not, everyone has three representatives in Congress: two senators and one congressperson. All three will eventually vote on a farm bill. Let your lawmakers know today that conservation is important to you.