Agriculture’s opponents love to paint the picture of federal crop insurance as a program that just caters to big, conventional farming operations that only grow certain commodities. But, that narrative is simply not true. Crop insurance is widely available to farmers, regardless of their size or cropping choices.
And, now there is new data to demonstrate how crop insurance is helping farmers and ranchers all across the country manage the inherent risks of growing food and fiber.
“Year after year for 10 years in a row we are seeing growth,” explained Brandon Willis, the Administrator of the Risk Management Agency (RMA), to stakeholders during a recent meeting on the expansion of crop insurance. “It’s a tremendous success story.”
Much of this growth and success is due to efforts in the 2014 Farm Bill to improve existing products, as well as create new ones and expand them for all farmers growing in all regions of the country, especially beginning farmers, specialty crop and organic growers.
“We have made a concerted effort to make it work for all,” added Willis, who oversees the government agency that partners with private-sector insurance companies to deliver coverage.
The effort is paying off.
RMA estimates that the number of acres covered by crop insurance increased to 297 million in 2014 from 265 million in 2009. Roughly 85 percent of planted acreage for major commodity crops, 74 percent of all fruit and nut acreage, and 36 percent of vegetable acres are insured. Also, the number of organic acres insured increased by a staggering 110 percent during this same time.
Meanwhile, in 2015 alone, RMA and crop insurers helped 13,719 beginning farmers and ranchers who work more than 3.5 million acres start their operations and save more than $14 million through premium discounts and waived fees.
Investments in crop insurance have helped usher in new risk management tools like Whole Farm Insurance, which caters to diverse operations because it enables growers to insure all crops on the farm under one insurance policy. Whole Farm insurance is offered in all states with policies sold in 42 states this year covering an average of nearly 4 crops per policy.
Other new products like the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and the APH Yield Exclusion have also helped farmers in all regions of the country secure better protection. RMA estimates that “nearly 1,000 fruit, vegetable, and other specialty crop policyholders are taking advantage of the APH Yield Exclusion for 2016.”
Additionally, while the program has expanded, the public-private partnership has made great strides in reducing mistakes, such as data entry errors or writing indemnity checks for incorrect amounts. Such actions are flagged by RMA as improper payments, and Willis said that such instances fell from a rate of 5.6 percent in 2014 to 2.2 percent in 2015. As a point of reference, the government-wide improper payment rate average is 4.39 percent.
Earlier in the year, Willis stated that cutting the rate in half demonstrated RMA’s “commitment to operating a well-run program that protects both taxpayers and farmers.”
Sadly, this success story is not one that you’ll hear about from the likes of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), or the Heritage Foundation. These professional critics need something crow about in order to stay relevant and expand their own coffers even if it is at the expense of American agriculture.
But, as the old saying goes, they are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The facts are clearly on the side of crop insurance.