09-28-2017 Letters and Commentary

LETTERS

Farm bill could help farmers, soil health, and water quality

Dear Editor,

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.

Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs

Learning the lingo of Social Security

Is Social Security a topic in your conversations these days? Are you familiar with the lingo used to describe Social Security benefits, or does it sound like a new vocabulary to you?

Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. But if a technical term or acronym (an abbreviation of the first letters of words in a phrase) that you don’t know slips into the conversation or appears in written material, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/glossary.

Social Security acronyms function as verbal shorthand in our financial planning conversations. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms involve your benefit amount based on when you decide to take it.

If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount.

What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases.

Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. But don’t expect a refreshing drink — a COLA is a Cost of Living Adjustment, and that will usually mean a little extra money in your monthly payment.

Knowing some of these terms can help you fine-tune your conversations about Social Security.  If one of those unknown terms or acronyms does come up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the lingo can deepen your understanding of how Social Security works for you. Discover more at