An amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill, asking the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to research and develop a better policy to insure alfalfa, passed the Senate by a vote of 72 to 18. The amendment was spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS).

“Alfalfa is the nation’s fourth most valuable crop and it plays a significant role in our daily lives as a building block for milk and meat,” Moran says. “We need to take a good hard look at alfalfa and recognize its value to our country. We must study and develop something that works, saves the taxpayer money, and makes certain the land of plenty remains. I am pleased my colleagues joined me in supporting the development of a risk management tool for alfalfa production so producers can enjoy lower input costs and consumers can enjoy less expensive products on the grocery store shelves.”

The legume offers value for its nitrogen fixation capabilities, soil conservation, crop rotation and wildlife habitat. It’s also a major driver in high feed prices for dairy and cattle operations and hits the consumer on the grocery store shelf, according to a press release from Moran’s office.

Although it’s one of America’s most valuable crops – behind only corn, soybean and wheat – alfalfa’s safety net pales in comparison, the press release adds. Alfalfas’ decline in acres can, in part, be attributed to bankers telling producers to instead plant program crops because alfalfa has no safety net. From 2002 to 2011, alfalfa acreage declined 15.7%; in 2012 alone it declined 10%.

The current crop insurance program, Forage Production APH, is severely inadequate. Less than 10% of alfalfa acreage is enrolled in the program, while enrollment for corn, soybean and wheat are all more than 80%. In addition, the program is only available in 23 states and limited counties in some of those states.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency is supportive of alfalfa insurance but needs the amendment to research and develop it.