Hartwell Huddleston Receives Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award

Hartwell Huddleston is a recipient of the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award, which was presented during the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Outstanding Outreach award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service to all farmers, including outreach to small, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Hartwell Huddleston is a crop insurance agent and the president of Delta Crop Insurance. Over the years, he and his team have made themselves an invaluable resource for the African American farming community in their area, and to the broader communities surrounding the towns of Rolling Fork and Greenville in Mississippi. Their hard work and tireless outreach are more than deserving of recognition by the NCIS.

The team at Delta Crop Insurance provides exemplary service to every one of their producers, treating each farmer the same as any other including those with limited resources or a lack of prior knowledge about crop insurance. They always make themselves available to each of their clients and are a constant source of education and service for growers in the area. Each year, they are careful to ensure that all their policyholders are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to navigate planting season and the acreage reporting and production reporting deadlines.

Even in the face of tragedy, Mr. Huddleston and his employees act as stalwart servants of their farmers and of their community. In March of 2023, Rolling Fork was devastated by a catastrophic tornado. Though the Delta Crop Insurance office was destroyed, the team continued to fight for their policyholders every single day. Battling damaged infrastructure and communication challenges, they managed to reach out to all their growers—especially those with limited resources, who were most vulnerable to the effects of the disaster—to make sure their needs were met, their claims were worked, and they had what they needed to keep farming.


PHOTO: Hartwell Huddleston was presented with a 2024 Crop Insurance Outstanding Outreach award by Scott Arnold (right) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Darrell Tennie Receives Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award

Darrell Tennie is a recipient of the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award, which was presented during the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Outstanding Outreach award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service to all farmers, including outreach to small, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Darrell Tennie and the staff at Agribusiness Alliance CIR Group Inc. (AGBI) out of Knightdale, North Carolina, have been selling crop insurance since 2014. They prospect new business by spending a lot of time going out and visiting farmers in the field, but also by partnering with several outreach programs. Some of the outreach programs they collaborate with are Community Based Organizations and 1890 Land Grant Institutions. They also hold conferences around the country educating their farmers with Agribusiness Development Workshops.

These development workshops are very intuitive and include Taxation, Entity Structure, Financial Statements and Understanding Crop Insurance. This level of service has led to AGBI growing their book to $2.04 million in premium with 98 percent of their policyholders being socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers. In addition to North Carolina, Agribusiness Alliance CIR Group Inc has growers in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina and specialize in Whole Farm Revenue Protection.


PHOTO: Darrell Tennie was presented with a 2024 Crop Insurance Outstanding Outreach award by Scott Arnold (right) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Jaime Cortes Receives Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award

Jaime Cortes is a recipient of the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Outreach Award, which was presented during the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Outstanding Outreach award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service to all farmers, including outreach to small, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Jaime Cortes, Marsh McLennan, exhibits exemplary service and outreach to Native American agriculture producers. Jamie has represented his agency and the industry well, providing Native American agriculture producer education on Rainfall Index/Pasture Rangeland and Forage, livestock programs and Whole-Farm Revenue Protection.

While relatively new to crop insurance, Jaime focuses his time educating producers on the benefits provided by the Rainfall Index and livestock programs. Jaime recognized that many tribe members throughout the Pacific Northwest were raising cattle and had enormous risks that could be managed utilizing PRF and livestock programs. He took it upon himself to attend a Northwest Intertribal Council (IAC) meeting to better understand the risks Native agriculture producers face.

Following this meeting, Jamie was able to meet with several members of the Northwest IAC to provide them with information about the risk management solutions available to producers and ranchers. Following the meeting, one attendee remarked that he was the first person in 20 years to discuss crop insurance with this group. That meeting sparked many additional meetings with several other tribe councils and ag groups throughout the Pacific Northwest to discuss the benefits of utilizing crop insurance to manage risk. Jaime’s focus is to educate producers and ranchers on the ability to utilize tools to cover production cost with the various MPCI programs available.

Jaime efforts are recognized by others within industry. After leading a presentation on Livestock Disaster Resources at the 2022 IAC Annual Conference, he has been asked to return to the 2023 IAC Annual Conference as a panelist discussing crop insurance. Jamie has also submitted a proposal to lead another presentation on LRP, PRF, Weaned Calf and WFRP/Micro Farm at the conference, continuing his goal to educate Native agriculture producers on the tools available to them.

Jaime has demonstrated his commitment to outreach and education to these underserved producers and ranchers. His goal is to provide information to producers/ranchers, so they can utilize all the risk management tools available to protect their farms and ranches.


PHOTO: Jaime Cortes was presented with a 2024 Crop Insurance Outstanding Outreach award by Scott Arnold (right) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Lisa Haag Receives Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry Award

Lisa Haag, Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) is the recipient of the 2024 Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry Award, which was presented during the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Friend of the Industry award recognizes an individual who provides exceptional and notable contributions to the crop insurance industry.

Lisa Haag has worked in support of and for the betterment of agriculture and the crop insurance industry her entire career. Over the years, her tireless dedication and leadership, along with her collaborative relationships with underwriters, agents, and regulators, have provided the industry with the steady leadership and guidance that has positively impacted crop insurance and the growers who depend on it each year.

Lisa joined RCIS in 2000 and is a valued member of the RCIS Leadership Team and the Zurich North America Compliance Leadership Team. Lisa’s extensive day-to-day experience working within the Approved Insurance Provider (AIP) environment includes oversight of the following:

  • Advisory functions to Identify, Communicate, Advise and Monitor Implementation of Federal Crop Insurance,
  • Assurance that customers are receiving products and services they expect,
  • Guidance on Federal Crop Insurance Program policy and procedures for all departments, and
  • Staff who are single points of contacts with NCIS and RMA for interpretation and comments to draft policy and procedure.

Lisa is not the type of person who seeks out recognition or credit for a job well done. Lisa rolls up her sleeves and goes to work to make sure the crop insurance program has strong policy and procedures in place that will work with the system in place to process and manage the business. She has an amazing ability to bring all perspectives together – AIP, agent, farmer, Risk Management Agency (RMA) – to outline realistic policy and procedures that will work. Lisa has participated at an industry level in many RMA meetings and sat in on many NCIS committee meetings where she was asked to provide input and feedback. She’s had substantial involvement and impact within industry-level work groups, including the last Standard Reinsurance Agreement negotiation and the implementation of the Combo plans of insurance in 2009-2011.

Lisa is a powerful advocate for program integrity, working closely with both legal and regulatory affairs team members and RMA to strengthen program controls and protect the program from waste and abuse. Her historical and institutional knowledge enables her to identify seemingly minor issues that could have major consequences for the program.

She has helped develop the concept of written agreement actuarial data masters, provided ideas and input on crop insurance legislation concepts and text, and endless numbers of provisions and procedures. Lisa’s opinion is sought out from both inside and outside of RCIS. She is a trusted resource who has genuine concern for all involved in an efficient and effective crop insurance program and procedures.


PHOTO: Lisa Haag was presented with the 2024 Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry award by Scott Arnold (right) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Ron Rutledge Receives Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award

Ron Rutledge was the recipient of the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award presented during the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Lifetime Achievement Award is designed to recognize individuals who consistently demonstrate outstanding leadership to the crop insurance industry.

The lasting impact Ron Rutledge has made on the crop insurance industry will be felt for many years to come through his actions and through those he has mentored. After a 40-year-career at Farmers Mutual Hail, the “retiree” is still spending his days on Capitol Hill fighting for crop insurance as Congress reviews a new Farm Bill. From testifying to the Senate while serving as Chairman of CIRB in 2017, to walking with CIRB Emerging Leaders as they meet with members of congress each spring, he continues to champion the safety net of America’s farmers.

During his four decades at FMH, Ron held multiple leadership roles. In his tenure as president and CEO (2010-2021), he grew the company’s footprint from regional to national through the acquisition of John Deere Insurance Company, and he led the company to achieving its first billion-dollar premium milestone. He helped to usher in new technologies, including using precision data for crop insurance, as well as managed the unprecedented change in the workplace during the COVID pandemic.

Ultimately, Ron’s easy-going personality makes him approachable for many folks across the industry, and his impact can be felt in the people he worked alongside and mentored, especially at FMH. Those that know him can attest to his friendliness, knowledge, and passion for crop insurance.

Ron has served or currently serves on:

  • The Board of Directors for National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), as well as various committees throughout the years
  • The Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB),
  • The Board of Directors for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC)
  • The Board of Directors for the Iowa Insurance Institute

Other notable achievements:

  • During his term as Chairman of the Board for CIRB in 2017, he testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee on behalf of the crop insurance industry.
  • During his tenure as president at FMH, Ron doubled the company’s premium from $500 million to $1 billion, as well as grew FMH to serve a national footprint.
  • Ron has served on the FMH Board of Directors for 30 years.

In addition to Ron’s service to the industry, he has used his leadership positions to bring positive change to others. From shaving his head to raise funds for childhood cancer research, to increasing donations to local food banks during the pandemic, Ron makes sure a culture of giving and caring for the community is felt at FMH and beyond.


PHOTO: Ron Rutledge was presented with the 2024 Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award by Scott Arnold (right), Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors. Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

President’s Budget Recognizes Crop Insurance is Key to Farm Safety Net

The President this week released his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget that fully funds the federal crop insurance program in recognition of the indispensable role that crop insurance plays in the farm safety net.

The release of the FY 2023 Budget follows a letter sent to OMB and the Secretary of Agriculture by 55 farming, banking, and conservation organizations asking that the administration protect crop insurance from harmful budget cuts.

The American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and National Crop Insurance Services released the following joint statement:

“America’s farmers and ranchers feed our nation, grow the fibers that clothe us, and provide an important economic driver for our rural communities. Over the past several years, crop insurance has helped farmers navigate the challenges posed by weather disasters, supply chain disruptions, and uncertain markets. The Administration has recognized the importance of crop insurance as a critical risk management tool by fully funding crop insurance in its FY 2023 budget.

“The crop insurance program works for farmers and taxpayers alike:

  • By delivering aid quickly and efficiently, crop insurance continues to earn the trust of America’s farmers, protecting more than 90 percent of America’s planted crop land acres.
  • Farmers invest in their own protection. Last year, farmers spent $5 billion to purchase crop insurance and then shouldered a significant portion of losses through deductibles.
  • Crop insurance complements farmers’ efforts to invest in conservation and climate-smart farming practices.
  • The federal government spends less than a quarter of 1% of its budget on the farm safety net, including crop insurance, making this a worthwhile investment to protect the world’s most affordable and safe food and fiber supply.

“We appreciate this Administration for fully funding crop insurance in its proposed budget. We urge Congress to follow suit by protecting and strengthening crop insurance.”

Sam Scheef Presented Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award

Sam Scheef was the recipient of the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention held in Indian Wells, Calif., this week. The Lifetime Achievement Award is designed to recognize individuals who consistently demonstrate outstanding leadership to the crop insurance industry.

During his 35-year career, Scheef was dedicated to the improvement and success of both the company he founded and the crop insurance industry as a whole. Through his organizational leadership and involvement in crop insurance advocacy, Scheef was a strong voice in the development of the legislation, standards, and procedures that helped shape the industry. Widely respected for his deep affection for agriculture, extensive crop insurance knowledge, and a passion for pushing the boundaries of technology, Scheef truly exemplifies the core values of an industry leader.

For Scheef, a computer programming project in his twenties led to a 35-year career in crop insurance and the creation of the nation’s fifth largest provider of Federal crop insurance. process. With that, the trajectory of his career changed completely.

Scheef was an expert at identifying areas where business inefficiencies could be solved by technology.  He developed several software systems to automate processes for the complex and highly technical crop insurance program, including the first Windows-based crop insurance processing system for personal computers. Scheef founded a software company in 1996 to distribute the product: ARMtech Insurance Services. ARMtech became a Managing General Agency in 1999 and deployed AgriNet, its proprietary crop insurance processing software, for the 2002 reinsurance year. In 2003, under Sam’s guidance, ARMtech became an SRA holder by purchasing American Agri-Business Insurance Company (AA-BIC).

With the development of its Document Imaging system, ARMtech was the first Approved Insurance Provider (AIP) to feature a fully electronic policy file, eliminating the need for cumbersome paperwork storage and shipping. ARMtech also revolutionized the way claims were worked and processed by creating a system that allowed adjusters to scan paperwork directly to auditors. The speed and accuracy of the new process made it possible for producers to receive claims payments much faster than ever before. Scheef’s vision and leadership were instrumental in the development of both these advancements, and many more.

Scheef’s leadership within the crop insurance industry extended beyond ARMtech. He served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Crop Insurers from 2006-2010, serving as Chairman from 2006-2008. He was also a member of the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau’s Executive Committee in 2006 and served as Chair of the organization from 2011-2012.

Scheef’s commitment to crop insurance is rivaled only by his devotion to his family and community. One of the founders of Peoples Bank, Sam served on the Board of Directors for 19 years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for High Point Village, the Texas Tech Therapeutic Riding Center, and the Lubbock Chamber Orchestra. A licensed pilot, Scheef is the Chairman of the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport Advisory Board. He is married to Jana, and together they have a blended family of five adult children and three grandchildren.

PHOTO: Sam Scheef was presented with the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award by Kendall Jones (left), Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors and Tom Zacharias (right), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Ruth Fulford Presented Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Service Award

Ruth Fulford is the recipient of the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Service Award, which was presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention this week in Indian Wells, California. The Outstanding Service award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service to all farmers, including outreach to small, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Fulford has been in the crop insurance industry for many years. She worked for the Patricia Leggett Agency in North Carolina where she learned the importance of assisting farmers with risk management decisions. When the agency owner decided to sell the business to Flatlands Insurance Group, Fulford was given the opportunity to lead the crop insurance department at the new agency.

Since 2015, Fulford has helped make Flatlands Insurance Group a premier crop insurance agency in the state of North Carolina. In an effort to take her expertise to another level, Fulford was given the title of Crop Risk Advisor and Crop and Agribusiness Resource and Education Consultant. In this role, she works to educate the agricultural community on crop insurance and risk management information with specific emphasis on outreach to minority, women, and underserved farmers.

Fulford’s responsibilities, accomplishments and contributions to Flatlands and the agriculture community include developing focus groups for at risk minority and women farmers, developing a survey to assess the farm community needs, educating farmers on crop insurance products, planning lunch and learn meetings for farmers, and providing social media content for the agency.

Fulford strives to educate and reach those groups that may not have traditional access to crop insurance information. Her history, experiences, and initiatives make her an exceptional crop insurance agent who is well deserving of the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Service Award.

PHOTO: Ruth Fulford was presented with the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Service Award by Kendall Jones (left) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

William Pearson Presented Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry Award

William “Bill” Pearson, Huisenga Pearson, is the recipient of the 2022 Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry Award, which was presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention last week in Indian Wells, California. The Friend of the Industry award recognizes an individual who provides exceptional and notable contributions to the crop insurance industry.

In today’s complicated farm community, farmers depend on crop insurance in so many ways. They expect our industry to unite to solve the issues on the farm and to overcome the many difficult program and delivery issues that come up. Pearson has been a voice of reason and one of unity in the industry. His common-sense insights have been extremely helpful in uniting the industry on our farmer’s behalf.

Pearson is passionate about providing his farmers with the most up to date information in helping them to make the risk management decision that is best for them. He has been an active member of the independent insurance agents of Iowa since 1986 and has served as the chairman of the Iowa Rural Agent Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. He has also been a member of the National Independent Insurance Agents of America and currently serves on the crop insurance task force in Washington D.C.

Pearson has seen a need to reach out to other industry groups to improve communication and unite the industry on behalf of the program and the American farmer. In this effort, he has become an active member of the American Association of Crop Insurers (AACI) agent contingent and the Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA) where his efforts are to improve and synthesize communications across the different organizations. This is so important during these times when it seems our country is so divided. If you ask him, Pearson will tell you, “…we need to stick together and unify for the good of the program. We need to keep in touch with our friends but also work on educating those that don’t support us. The future of our industry depends on it.”

Pearson and his wife, Jan, have five children and 13 grandchildren. He is active in his church serving on the board and as its treasurer and enjoys story telling as he teaches the kids at Sunday school. He has served as an EMT for the county and enjoys family, friends, hunting, fishing, and golfing.

PHOTO: William “Bill” Pearson was presented with the 2022 Crop Insurance Friend of the Industry award by Kendall Jones (left) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Teri Steppel Presented Crop Insurance Industry Leadership Award

Teri Steppel is a recipient of the 2022 Industry Award for consistently serving the industry and providing outstanding leadership to National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and the crop insurance industry. The award was presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention last week in Indian Wells, California.

Steppel began her career in crop insurance working at the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) in 1978. Her career spanned multiple administrations, Farm Bills, Standard Reinsurance Agreements, Common Policies, and endless changes to the Federal crop insurance program. She has watched farming practices change and technology change significantly over the last four decades.

Through all of this change, there has been a constant need for policy, procedure, and reality to find a common ground. Steppel thrives in this environment and her passion and dedication has benefited all participants, companies, and the Risk Management Agency.

Steppel’s involvement in NCIS Standing Committees and workgroups over the years has been tireless.  The objective of the first committee she participated in was to develop something the industry knows as the Actual Production History (APH) plan. She served on the original NCIS Policy Procedure & Loss (PPLA) Adjustment Committee that started in the mid-1990s and has served as a member, Chair and Co-Chair of the MPCI PPLA, Data Mining Steering Committee, and multiple working groups for most of her career. She is still an active member of the MPCI PPLA Committee and has been co-chair since 2005.

Her contributions and leadership to NCIS committees is that she actively participates, does not hesitate to lead, and has mastered the skill of knowing when to speak and when to listen. She is always ready and willing to help others learn and understand issues in order to achieve solutions that add integrity to the crop insurance program.

Steppel’s dedication to the industry is sincere. She cares about farmers and ranchers, appreciates competitors, respects our regulators and taxpayers, and is able to see the big picture and the minutia of almost every scenario in a very short amount of time.

PHOTO: Teri Steppel was presented with the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Leadership award by Kendall Jones (left) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Roger Wittum Presented Crop Insurance Industry Leadership Award

Roger Wittum is a recipient of the 2022 Industry Leadership Standing Committee Award for consistently serving the industry and providing outstanding leadership to National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and the crop insurance industry. The award was presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention last week in Indian Wells, California.

Wittum has been a leader within the crop insurance industry for more than 20 years, 15 of those with his current employer.  As a field claims manager for NAU Country, he was instrumental in the development of many new adjusters in the industry, and many of them have become the next generation of industry leaders.

In the field claims manager role, Wittum was very active in NCIS regional/state committee activities.  Serving as a plot leader, he organized training programs regardless of the logo on the cap.  As his career developed, and with his even demeanor and steady hand, opportunities lead to a national level position.  This strategic role, which is focused on the Crop-Hail program, lead him to serve as a member of the NCIS Crop-Hail Policy, Procedure, and Loss Adjustment Committee for the last 10 years.

The Crop-Hail program has evolved and grown immensely in the last 10 years. During this time, Wittum was a trusted voice of sensibility when products were changing, and procedures were being penned in the industry for loss adjustment.  He achieved all of this, while being true to the American farmer and rancher, as well as to the industry, and to our reinsurance partners.  Most recently, a great deal of attention has been placed upon wind products offered industry wide. The procedures that are placed in the claims professional’s hands are paramount, and Wittum played a significant role in that development while serving on the Committee.  Lastly, he has always been a strong advocate for NCIS sponsored research programs conducted through the land grant university research system.

Wittum is a great mentor. He leads with a calm and quiet confidence that is highly respected.

PHOTO: Roger Wittum was presented with the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Leadership award by Kendall Jones (left) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.


Steve Wilson Presented Crop Insurance Industry Leadership Award

Steve Wilson is a recipient of the 2022 Industry Leadership for consistently serving the industry and providing outstanding leadership to National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and the crop insurance industry. The award was presented during the 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention last week in Indian Wells, California.

Wilson has been in the crop insurance industry since 1975 and has served in many different roles, starting with the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). He then became an independent agent for nine years, before finally moving towards the company side in 1989.  Wilson has held the positions of adjuster, agent, office manager, quality assurance director, Federal contract development manager, and claims manager. In addition to his professional career, he has continued to run the family farm in south central Iowa.  These experiences have helped shape him into a well-rounded leader, helping provide guidance and insight to those around him.

As a leader, Wilson is well respected by his peers within the industry.  He is continually looking to help grow the industry and everyone within it.  He can look at issues from all perspectives of the insured, agent, and AIP, which has helped provide the industry with a unique perspective.  Steve has served on the NCIS MPPPLA in past years and has helped lead countless industry and procedural trainings.

In his prior role with another company, Wilson played a big part in the push for acceptance of precision ag data.  Technology continues to change agriculture and policyholders as well as the companies that continue to benefit from increased adoption throughout the country.  Making sure that the industry has the correct procedures in place to maintain the health of the program is a must, and Wilson has played a big role in helping continue to push the industry and program forward.

As with any other industry, there is always a point in time where one generation passes the torch to the next.  Wilson has made the industry stronger because of his leadership and desire to train the next group of leaders.  He leaves a legacy throughout the industry.

PHOTO: Steve Wilson was presented with a 2022 Crop Insurance Industry Leadership award by Kendall Jones (left) Chair of the National Crop Insurance Services Board of Directors, and Tom Zacharias (left), President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Michael Connealy Receives Crop Insurance Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Connealy, Hudson Crop Insurance, was the recipient of the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for his many years of leadership and contributions to the crop insurance industry. The award was presented during the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention, which was held virtually on February 9.

Connealy grew up on a family farm in Eastern Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1976. His first insurance experience was in the farm property business with Employers Mutual in Des Moines, Iowa. His crop insurance career began in 1979 with a crop hail managing general agency (MGA), American Agrisurance (AmAg) out of the Omaha/Council Bluffs area.

Connealy was with AmAg during the period of time that the Crop Insurance Act of 1980 was working its way through Congress. He then attended the public-private sector kickoff event in November of 1980. This landmark meeting included numerous Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) people and just as many from dozens of private sector companies interested in the future.

During his time with AmAg, between 1982 and 1983, Connealy was a member of the Crop Hail Insurance Actuarial Association (CHIAA) committee that worked with the FCIC to develop the Actual Production History (APH) program. His service to the industry also included a position on the National Crop Insurance Association (NCIA) Board of Directors in the late 1980s, just prior to the CHIAA/NCIA merger into what is now our National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) organization.

Connealy remained with AmAg until early in 1991 when he left to join the efforts of Norwest Bank Corporation to enter the crop insurance business. He moved to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota in 1992 as an executive with Crop Hail Management (CHM). The parent company, Norwest, then acquired the original version of National Ag Underwriters (NAU) and merged the two into Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS).

Connealy spent the next several years as President and CEO of RCIS, which became the industry’s largest provider. During this same period, he contributed valuable time and expertise to NCIS. He spent many years on the NCIS Board of Directors, including advancement through the executive committee and two years as Chairman. The late 1990s and early 2000s were turbulent times for the crop insurance industry – survival was not always certain and leadership from the company executives, including Connealy, was key to moving forward.

Connealy left RCIS and joined Producers Ag Insurance Company (ProAg) in 2006. For the next twelve years, he worked successfully to help make ProAg an industry player on a national scale. His role as President at ProAg was his 5th position as President of an Approved Insurance Provider (AIP). This is perhaps a record in the crop insurance private sector after also having served as President of AmAg, CHM, NAU and RCIS during his long and distinguished career.

Connealy was deeply involved as an industry resource in the negotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) with FCIC beginning in the 1980s and including each such session up to and including the SRA released in 2011. Most notably, he was fortunate to testify in front of both agriculture committees of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and following the passage of the enabling crop insurance act, he was part of that initial meeting between the FCIC and private industry to determine the transition to this new relationship. This meeting was the seed that led private companies to becoming master marketing contractors with the FCIC to in order to help manage and transition the legacy FCIC business. His historical perspective on this critical subject is likely unmatched in both the current public and private sector.

In April of 2020, after a two-year retirement stint, Connealy accepted an employment offer from Hudson Crop. Despite his 40 plus years of industry accomplishments and contributions, he shared that after his initial enthusiasm with retirement passed, it became apparent that with his good health and still relatively young age, he had more to contribute to the industry he has dedicated so much of his life to.

David Hood Receives Crop Insurance Outstanding Service Award

David Hood was the recipient of the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Outstanding Service Award in recognition for outstanding service and outreach to small, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.  The award was presented during the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention, which was held virtually on February 9.

Hood has a distinguished 41-year career with First South Farm Credit. He wrote his first crop insurance policy in 1986 and farmers have since trusted him as both a farm lender and insurance agent. Hood now devotes most of his time to servicing First South’s expanding crop insurance business in Mississippi.

Hood was raised on small, diversified farm in rural Wester County, MS, and has an agriculture degree from Mississippi State. His experience and knowledge of agriculture economics has enabled him to understand various insurance products that are important to both large and small farmers. First South understands farming and considers crop insurance to be one of the best ways to manage risk on the farm. Hood and his staff work closely with their farm clients to analyze and choose products that provide affordable protection against crop disaster. Because the agency’s territory includes many small farms, extra attention is given to limited resource farmers.  He has a trust relationship with this farmer group and is always patient when helping remove crop insurance complexities.

Hood is locally known and respected as a community leader in his hometown of Eupora located in North Central, MS. He is a county Farm Bureau director and has been the local Soil & Water Conservation District chairman for over 30 years. He and his wife Gerry are active in their church where he serves as a deacon. Hood has two daughters and six grandchildren.

Kelly Garrett Receives Crop Insurance Industry Leadership Award

Kelly Garrett, Great American Insurance Group, was the recipient of the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Leadership Award in recognition for consistently serving the industry and providing outstanding leadership through NCIS’ regional/state committees. The award was presented during the 2021 Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention, which was held virtually on February 9.

Garrett has more than 27 years of experience in the crop insurance industry. He started in the industry as an agent and in 2000, began working as an adjuster for North Central Crop Insurance as a claims representative.  Garrett currently oversees claims for Great American in western Nebraska, Wyoming, and eastern Colorado. He also helps train agents and adjusters.

Garrett is actively involved with the Nebraska, Iowa, and Colorado/Wyoming NCIS Regional/State Committees.  He is currently serving as Vice Chair for the CO/WY Committee, a position he has held several times, helping to promote crop insurance and setting up adjuster training schools.

“Kelly has always been a leader in the R/S Committees,” said Mark Flohr, National Crop Insurance Services staff liaison. “He involves himself with the operations of the committees and organization of the adjuster schools. He always exhibits courtesy and professionalism.”

For many years Garrett has led the team setting up the CO/WY adjuster schools that covered corn, dry beans, grain sorghum, millet, potatoes, soybeans, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat. He possesses in-depth knowledge of many crops and provides instruction during the schools. He arranges guest speakers for the annual meetings and assists with the Nebraska corn schools in Lincoln and Grand Island. He is the first to volunteer for these projects and has been involved with them for more than 15 years.

“I have always been able to count on Kelly to help,” Flohr said. “I know that the committees and adjuster schools are better for everyone because of his participation. The committee members respect him, and he is a tremendous asset to his company and the industry.”

Garrett lives in Kimball, Neb., and is very active in the outdoors whether it is golfing, hunting, or fishing, he will be there enjoying it.

Crop Insurance Protects Rural America, Solidifies Popularity as Risk-Management Tool

Crop insurance proved to be a critical risk-management tool for America’s farmers in 2019, keeping rural America afloat during what was one of the most difficult years in recent memory. Crop insurance policies protected a record 380 million acres of land, or more than 90 percent of planted acres.

In his opening remarks today at the crop insurance industry’s annual meeting, Jim Korin, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and president of NAU Country Insurance Company, credited crop insurance’s integral role in the farm safety net for its increasing popularity.

“Despite the financial challenges that rural America has faced over the past several years, farmers continue to invest in the reliable crop insurance products we provide,” Korin said. “This is a testament to our industry’s record of service as well as the trust farmers place in us to provide assistance with efficiency and integrity when disaster strikes.”

In 2019, farmers purchased 1.1 million crop insurance policies, collectively paying $3.75 billion in premiums and shouldering more than $10 billion in deductibles.

As disasters threatened both planting and harvest across the heartland, the crop insurance industry acted quickly to deliver aid. As of Feb. 10, 2020, the crop insurance industry has already paid more than $9.15 billion in crop insurance indemnities to help farmers cope with their losses, and this number is expected to grow as claims are finalized.

“The fact is, corn fields and cow herds can’t survive on political promises,” Korin said. “Farmers can’t wait for politicians to fight over the details of what they deserve when their farm and their livelihood is on the line.”

Mike Davenport, chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers and Chief Operating Officer of Rain and Hail LLC, a Chubb Company, also addressed the convention and asserted that crop insurance delivered as promised to farmers.

“We have indeed helped farmers and ranchers manage a challenging year by processing claims and getting payments out the door quickly. It underscores why private-sector delivery is such an integral part of the program and it demonstrates that crop insurance works,” Davenport said.

Both Korin and Davenport praised the wide availability of crop insurance, noting that the program protects the vast diversity of food, fuel and fiber production across the United States.

Korin concluded his remarks by pledging that the industry will continue its efforts to strengthen crop insurance, saying: “We will always work to ensure crop insurance remains affordable, widely available and economically viable.”


Crop Insurance Acreage Sets New Mark in 2017

PHOENIX—2017 was an historic year for crop insurance, with 311 million acres enrolled in the system.  For perspective, that’s an area roughly the size of California, Texas and New York combined.

The good news was delivered by Mike Day, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), during the industry’s annual meeting, which began yesterday.

He also told the group that insurers backed more than $106 billion worth of crops in 2017, up $6 billion since 2016.  And farmers paid $3.7 billion out of their own pockets for insurance protection – a more than $250 million increase from the year before.

“Today, crop insurance protects around 90 percent of the insurable land and more than 130 different kinds of crops,” said Day, who heads Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) for Zurich North America.  “Congress made crop insurance the cornerstone of farm policy, and it is important not just for farmers and rural communities, but for taxpayers and consumers alike.”

Despite its popularity, some farm policy opponents are angling to cut crop insurance funding in the upcoming Farm Bill debate.

Day said that would be a mistake, pointing out Congress’ efforts to make crop insurance affordable and available for farmers and economically viable enough to encourage efficient private-sector delivery.

“Interrupt any of those three pillars, as some farm policy critics are advocating, and you undo all the progress that has been made over the past three decades,” he noted.

NCIS President Tom Zacharias echoed Day’s comments and encouraged agriculture to work hand-in-hand during the Farm Bill to defend farmers’ primary risk management tool.  He also urged his colleagues to maintain their vigilance in providing superior customer service and coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Farmers must continue to realize the economic value of today’s crop insurance system and have confidence that both government and the private sector are committed to its continued success,” Zacharias concluded.


Chairman Conaway Sets Sights on March Farm Bill Vote Vows to Defend Successful Crop Insurance System

PHOENIX— The House Agriculture Committee is diligently working on a new Farm Bill, which Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) hopes will receive a vote in the House of Representatives before the end of March.

Conaway, who addressed the crop insurance industry’s annual convention today, said that would leave plenty of time to work out differences with the Senate version of the bill and ensure new legislation is finalized before the Farm Bill expires at the end of September.

“We will have difficult decisions to make,” he said, noting that there is “no reason to put it off just because [the debate] will be hard.”

Conaway said the bill leaving his committee will include a strong crop insurance component, and he will work to fight off attempts to weaken crop insurance.

“Our mantra is ‘don’t screw up crop insurance,’” he explained.

Conaway’s support was music to the ears of crop insurers, who believe their track record under the current Farm Bill is noteworthy.  Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services, outlined these successes during his opening remarks at the meeting.

“Farmers have spent nearly $15 billion in premiums since 2014,” Zacharias said.  “They’ve also shouldered more than $30 billion in deductibles.”

Because farmers help pay into the system, taxpayers aren’t left footing the whole bill after a disaster strikes.  That helps explain why crop insurance costs are below budget.

Congressional Budget Office projections for crop insurance are down nearly $10 billion since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted.

Zacharias said the industry has also invested heavily in improving efficiency and stamping out waste under the current Farm Bill.



Crop Insurers Kick Off Annual Meeting with ‘Risk Management Minute’ Video

PHOENIX—The eyes of the agricultural community are on crop insurance this week as lawmakers, commodity leaders and insurers gather for the industry’s annual meeting.  To kick off the event, National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) today released the first installment of an educational video series that examines the upcoming Farm Bill.

The “Risk Management Minute” videos plainly explain the consequences of legislative proposals that would drive up insurance costs for farmers, exclude some operations from coverage, and make the system less economically viable for the private sector.

Crop insurance’s cost-sharing structure – where farmers help offset taxpayer risk exposure by paying premiums and meeting deductibles – is the focus of the first piece.  Others will be made public throughout February.

“Congress used to call on taxpayers to pick up the pieces after Mother Nature struck,” the cost-share video explains. “Now, farmers help fund their own recovery.”

Farmers collectively pay between $3.5 billion and $4 billion a year in premiums, even in years without a disaster, NCIS noted.

Farmers also must shoulder, on average, 25 percent of losses before receiving aid.  Those deductibles have totaled more than $30 billion in farmer losses under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“That’s a lot, but some farm policy critics want to upend this cost-sharing agreement. They want to make insurance less affordable,” the video continued.

For example, one legislative proposal would cap the premium discounts that farmers receive from the government.  This would ultimately drive up farmer cost, reduce insurance participation and make unbudgeted, taxpayer-funded disaster bills more likely.

“Congress made crop insurance a cornerstone of U.S. farm policy for a reason.  It works.  It’s efficient.  It saves money.  And it’s popular,” the video concludes.  “No wonder so many farmers are saying ‘do no harm’ to crop insurance in the Farm Bill.”

The video can be viewed at www.CropInsuranceInAmerica.org and on NCIS’s social media channels.


As Farm Bill Discussions Get Underway, NCIS Unveils Updated Website

OVERLAND PARK, Kan., June 5, 2017 – National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) is pleased to announce it has updated and redesigned the award-winning Crop Insurance in America website. The revamped website aims to effectively share crop insurance’s success story by offering visitors streamlined access to the latest news and information on crop insurance, as well as encouraging interaction on social media channels.

The site has a crisp, clean design, improved social media sharing tools, and increased security settings.

Features include an updated comprehensive question-and-answer resource, Just the Facts, that lays out the facts about crop insurance and dispels some of the most common arguments against crop insurance put forth by its critics.

The site also features a robust news section that houses recent press releases, the association’s What’s Cropping Up newsletter, relevant headlines, quotes, and other resources, including social media content for easy sharing.

Other items available on the site include updated fact sheets on the importance of crop insurance to individual states; farmer testimonials; a detailed history of the program; a look at the essential strengths of the program, and more.

“The crop insurance program is the cornerstone of the farm safety net and has a great story to tell,” said Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS. “We hope this updated website will provide visitors with a better understanding as to why crop insurance is so valuable, not just to farmers, but to taxpayers as well, and will encourage them to share its success story with others.”

NCIS launched this website in 2008 to better explain the benefits of crop insurance to farmers, taxpayers, and consumers, and to demonstrate how the program helps drive the nation’s rural economy.  In 2015, NCIS was honored to have the website selected by the United States Library of Congress (LOC) to be part of America’s historic collection of Internet materials.

Click here to explore the updated Crop Insurance in America site.


Cost-Sharing, Public-Private Partnership Set Crop Insurance Apart

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2017
For more information, please contact Laurie Langstraat at 913-685-2767

(ARLINGTON, Va.) – The cost-sharing structure and the unique partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the private sector are key to the success of crop insurance, according to National Crop Insurance Services President Tom Zacharias.

Zacharias, who spoke today at the 2017 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, said crop insurance has become popular on Capitol Hill and in rural America because “it serves as a hand-up, not a handout, when farmers need help rebuilding after a disaster.”

“Farmers help fund their own safety net by paying premiums and by shouldering part of losses through deductibles,” he explained. “And private companies pay part of the indemnities when disaster strikes, helping shield taxpayers from risk.”

All told, farmers have collectively paid nearly $50 billion from their own pockets into the crop insurance system since 2000. Today, about 90 percent of U.S. farmland is insured, providing $100 billion in protection to more than 125 different kinds of crops in all 50 states.

Crop insurance is now the cornerstone of U.S. farm policy, Zacharias said, which was made possible by a close working relationship between the government and the private sector. Insurance providers and agents sell and service insurance policies, while the USDA oversees the program, making it affordable and widely available to all growers.

“As a result, farmers usually get assistance within days or weeks of a verified claim, not months or years as was the case with old ad hoc disaster bills,” he told the group.

This public-private partnership is also important to stamping out waste and protecting taxpayer investments in the farm safety net. The USDA sets guidelines and closely monitors all activities, and insurers spend millions every year on new research and technologies, as well as training and education programs.

Earlier this month, the USDA released crop insurance’s improper payment rate for 2016. This measure of efficiency and accuracy is required of all major federal programs, and crop insurance’s marks were twice as impressive as other government programs – 2 percent compared to the 4.67 percent government-wide average.

Zacharias believes these successes will serve crop insurance well as Congress begins debate of the next Farm Bill.


Crop Insurers Reflect on Past, Plan for Future at Annual Conference

For more information, contact Laurie Langstraat at 913-685-2767

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) – An industrywide crop insurance convention ended today, where participants spent the last three days discussing the importance of partnering with the new Administration to help the farmers manage their growing risks.

The event, organized by National Crop Insurance Services and American Association of Crop Insurers, brought together industry members, agricultural producers and key lawmakers.

“We’re grateful to our friends on Capitol Hill who established crop insurance as the centerpiece of America’s farm policy,” said NCIS President Tom Zacharias, “And, we appreciate the outgoing Administration, which partnered with crop insurers over the last eight years to make coverage more affordable and available.”

He highlighted several recent successes:

  • Farmers helped fund their own safety net, collectively spending more than $30 billion from their own pockets on insurance coverage since 2009.
  • Because of crop insurance, Congress didn’t have to pass costly ad hoc disaster bills after severe flooding in the Midwest in 2011 or the widespread drought of 2012.
  • 25 million more acres are covered today than in 2009, thanks to steps taken to add new products and make premiums more affordable for farmers.
  • Instances of improper crop insurance payments in 2016 – a common measure of government program efficiency – were just 2.02 percent, compared to a 4.67 percent average for other government programs.
  • Since passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, crop insurance costs have come in under budget estimates by approximately $3 billion.
  • In 2012 alone, crop insurance saved 20,900 jobs across Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming with an annual labor income of $721.2 million, according to a new study by Farm Credit Services.

Zacharias believes this solid foundation can be built upon for years to come.

“The new Administration’s promise to protect and grow American jobs, and its pro-business attitude give us reason to be optimistic,” he explained. “We are eager to partner with the incoming USDA to strengthen rural America and help our farmers.”

He concluded: “The cost-sharing attributes of crop insurance help shield taxpayers from risk. Private-sector efficiencies speed aid when its needed the most. Farmers can tailor coverage to their own unique operations. And crop insurance is popular throughout rural America. All of which should bode well in the upcoming Farm Bill debate.”

Reps. Peterson, Conaway Reaffirm Crop Insurance Support Prior to Farm Bill

For more information, please contact Laurie Langstraat at 913-685-2767

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) – Leaders from the House Agriculture Committee expressed their continued support for crop insurance and urged agriculture to remain vigilant against farm policy critics during the upcoming Farm Bill debate.

The Committee’s Ranking Member, Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), spoke at the crop insurance industry’s annual conference this week, calling crop insurance “a safety net that really works for producers.”

He praised private-sector delivery as one of the main reasons for its success over the years.

“When the government tried to run crop insurance, it just didn’t work,” he said, referring to the period before private providers were tapped in 1980 to deliver insurance protection to farmers.

The public-private partnership that characterizes crop insurance today prioritizes customer service and innovates to meet the changing risks that farmers face, Peterson explained.

“We just need to make sure we keep it that way in the future,” he noted.  Peterson wasn’t alone in applauding the current structure of crop insurance.

Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) told the group via video message that private industry and a “motivated agent workforce on the ground,” have helped increase crop insurance participation over the years.  This, he said, has reduced taxpayer risk exposure and virtually eliminated the need for costly ad hoc disaster bills in agriculture.

“Put simply, crop insurance is working,” Conaway continued.  “For every farmer, banker, and rural businessman I talk to, they all remind me that crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net.”

Conaway noted that Farm Bill hearings would begin before the end of the month, and Peterson expressed his desire to deliver a bill before the end of the year.  To do so, Peterson stressed, agriculture and its allies must work together to beat back critics of farm policy who want to leave farmers with fewer risk management tools.

The Chairman agreed.  “We can win this fight.  We will win this fight because we are in the right,” he concluded.  “We stand for an industry that blesses this nation with every bushel or bale that’s produced.  This is an industry worth fighting for.”


Instances of Improper Crop Insurance Payments Well Below Government Averages


For more information, please contact Laurie Langstraat at 913-685-2767

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) – The Acting Administrator of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency said yesterday that the improper payment rate — a closely-watched standardized measure of waste and efficiency for all major federal spending programs – fell again in 2016 for crop insurance.

The 2016 rate of 2.02 percent marked the second year in a row it declined, falling from 2015’s 2.2 percent. Both are significantly lower than the 5.58 percent catalogued in 2014.

The announcement, made by Heather Manzano at the crop insurance industry’s annual meeting, was great news considering crop insurance’s results were far better than other government programs. The government-wide improper payment rate was 4.67 percent in 2016 and 4.39 percent in 2015.

An improper payment occurs when funds go to the wrong recipient; when the correct recipient receives too little or too much; or when the recipient uses funds in an improper manner. Many errors are simply rooted in data entry and reporting mistakes.

Tom Zacharias, the president of National Crop Insurance Services, which sponsored this week’s meetings, said the news shows how well the current crop insurance infrastructure operates.

“Crop insurers and our partners at the USDA work closely together, and we are dedicated to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars by constantly improving efficiency,” he said. “The private sector spends millions every year on new research and technologies, as well as monitoring, training, and education programs.”

Reducing improper payments has been a long-term goal for crop insurance providers and the USDA. Zacharias said the new data is proof that the hard work is paying off, and he believes it will be key to defending the farm safety net in political circles.

“It proves how efficient the current system is, and it proves that crop insurance is a well-run public-private partnership,” he concluded. “It’s a great story, and it’s one we will tell over and over again as perennial critics of farm policy look to weaken farmers’ risk management tools.”


Crop Insurers Hope to Partner with New Administration, Allies to Defend Farm Safety Net

For more information, contact Laurie Langstraat at 913-685-2767

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.)—Farmers, risk management professionals, government officials, and the lawmakers who made crop insurance the centerpiece of farm policy have a lot to be proud of, and working together to tout those successes will be important to securing a promising future, according to Mike Day, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services.

“The new Administration and Congress have signaled the ushering in of a new pro-business environment in D.C.,” he told colleagues yesterday at the crop insurance industry’s annual convention. And that is good news for crop insurance providers, which work in close partnership with the federal government to help farmers recoup after disasters.

“The crop insurance cost-sharing structure; its impressive record against waste, fraud and abuse; and its efficient private-sector delivery system should make it a priority with a new crop of decision makers,” he said.

Day, who heads Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) for Zurich North America, said crop insurance is particularly important for rural America today because farmers depend on strong risk management tools when extreme weather and tough economic conditions strike.

“Today’s economic climate gives us an excellent opportunity to display just how important the modern-day farm safety net is,” he said, adding that unity among crop insurers and the agricultural community will be key to telling that story.

“Our critics cannot succeed if agriculture is united and is working hand-in-hand to educate the public,” he continued. “We saw this first-hand during the budget battles of late 2015, and we are already seeing agriculture rally behind crop insurance in preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill debate.”

Such support for crop insurance is not surprising. More than 90 percent of America’s farmland was insured in 2016, protecting $100 billion worth of crops. And farmers paid $3.4 billion out of their own pockets to buy protection – a far cry of past farm policies that were completely funded by taxpayers.

“As we embark on our educational efforts, we must convey that crop insurance works because it is affordable for producers, because it is widely available, and because it is economically viable,” Day concluded. “Upset any of those components, and the entire crop insurance infrastructure is in disarray.”


New Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Farmers, Farm Policy, Crop Insurance

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) – Nearly 90 percent of Americans have a favorable view of farmers, and 92 percent said it was important to provide them with federal funding, according to a new national poll released today.  Furthermore, positive marks cut across party lines, showing that a strong farm policy is a bipartisan issue.

“Americans overwhelmingly like farmers and support the programs that protect them,” explained Jon McHenry, vice president of North Star Opinion Research, the polling firm that explored the general public’s views on farmers, farm policy and crop insurance.  “This response is not surprising when you consider that eight in 10 voters believe a vibrant agricultural industry was critical to the country’s national security.”

More than 70 percent of voters also said they believed that farmers should help fund part of their own safety net.  This cost-sharing structure is at the heart of America’s crop insurance policy, with farmers paying a portion of their insurance premiums and shouldering, on average, 25 percent of crop losses through deductibles.

Those polled were impressed.  Nearly 80 percent said they supported giving farmers discounts on insurance premiums and the vast majority agreed that the current premium and deductible amounts absorbed by farmers were appropriate.

Americans also weighed in on the delivery of crop insurance.  When asked who should implement the system, voters agreed by a 20-point margin that farmers and taxpayers were better served by private companies delivering crop insurance instead of the government.

Support for farm policy and crop insurance even remained high when poll respondents were read a misleading statement often used by farm policy’s critics.

“In a question providing both sides, the security argument in favor of protecting farms wins by a two-to-one margin over the argument used by farm policy opponents,” McHenry said.

The public opinion poll, which was commissioned by the National Crop Insurance Services, is available at www.ncis.staging.wpengine.com.  The phone survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted April 3-7 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.


Economists Discuss Farm Policy Amid Falling Crop Prices

(INDIAN WELLS, Calif.)—The U.S. Department of Agriculture, last week, warned that farm incomes would again fall in 2016 because of low commodity prices, continuing a troubling trend in recent years. Top agricultural economists echoed that sentiment yesterday and explained how this reality underscores the importance of farm policy.

“It’s pretty tough sledding out there right now for grain producers,” Washington State University economist Randy Fortenbery said during a panel discussion at an annual meeting hosted by National Crop Insurance Services and the American Association of Crop Insurers. “If you look forward, I think the tough times will extend beyond 2016.”

Fortenbery explained that the high value of the dollar and commodity surpluses around the globe are making things particularly difficult for U.S. agriculture. He also encouraged farmers to “think about risk management” as a way to weather these tough times.

Joe Outlaw with Texas A&M University agreed. “Producers need to spend their money wisely and fine tune their crop insurance protection as much as possible,” he said.

“We are fortunate in this country to have crop insurance and a farm safety net,” Outlaw continued, adding that such policies are essential right now since “prices are below the cost of production for everybody.”

And while low commodity prices harm farmers and rural economies, there are some silver linings when it comes to crop insurance. Because the value of the insured crop is falling, that means insurance premiums are falling as well, which could help lower farmers’ bills and reduce government cost.

Mechel Paggi with California State University, Fresno, explained that this has implications on the international front, too. The 2014 Farm Bill made crop insurance the centerpiece of U.S. farm policy, he said, and as such it will be scrutinized by the World Trade Organization to ensure compliance with international rules.

“U.S. farm policy is coming in well under the support caps agreed to by the WTO,” he said. “With crop insurance costs going down, it would be harder to argue that current policy is a hindrance to foreign trade.”

Furthermore, Paggi noted that existing research shows very weak linkage between crop insurance and producer planting decisions – a key indicator used by WTO when examining countries’ farm policies.

USDA: Public-Private Partnership has Strengthened Crop Insurance and Reduced Waste

(INDIAN WELLS, Calif.)—The current crop insurance system, which depends on cooperation and coordination between private-sector insurers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is working well and serves as an example of how effective such partnerships can be.

That was the message delivered yesterday by Brandon Willis, administrator of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, at the crop insurance industry’s annual meeting. Willis pointed to the partnership’s track record for eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse as proof of its success.

Occurrences of improper indemnity payments to farmers, which can result from data entry and reporting mistakes, fell to 2.2 percent in 2015, Willis told the group. That’s compared to a 5.5 percent improper payment average for other USDA programs in 2014 and a 4 percent average for programs across all government agencies.

“This demonstrates that the crop insurance program can withstand the scrutiny [from its critics],” Willis explained. “It’s a good story. It tells the story that crop insurance is a well-run program with an error rate far below the government average.”

He added that the USDA and private insurers will continue to identify and address the causes of errors and constantly make improvements to the system.

In addition to efficient and accurate program management, Willis said that the partnership excelled in implementing a complicated farm bill in 2014. In particular, he noted how hard work by both the public and private sectors made it possible to expand coverage options to beginning farmers and ranchers, organic production, and specialty crops.

This expanded coverage has helped crop insurance find new supporters, noted Willis, which will be essential to defending farm policy in the future.

“It’s important that we have a safety net that works for everybody,” he concluded. “Crop insurance has worked…and it is my hope that we can work together…to have a program that we are proud of and that farmers are proud of.”

Senate Ag Chair Encourages Greater Outreach, Education to Counter Attacks on Crop Insurance

(INDIAN WELLS, Calif.) — The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition addressed crop insurers during the annual meeting of the American Association of Crop Insurers and the National Crop Insurance Services and pledged to “preserve, protect, and defend” this public-private partnership against the challenges ahead.

During his keynote speech, Sen. Pat Roberts praised the ability of the industry to work together to stave off cuts to crop insurance that were included in last year’s budget deal noting that agriculture can be a powerful force when it is united.

“I’m proud of the way we all stood up and found a solution,” said Roberts. “Working with Chairman Conaway in the House and what was nearly the entire agriculture industry, we were able to fix a shortsighted legislative cut to crop insurance.”

He also warned that more teamwork would be needed in the days ahead as critics continue to attack this important risk management tool. Additionally, he encouraged crop insurers to double their outreach and education efforts stating that not all lawmakers in Washington understand farm policy.

“My challenge to you today is to find more allies, leave no stone unturned,” said Roberts. “We have to increase the number of voices defending crop insurance both inside the Congress and out in the countryside.”

Roberts explained that he has spent his career working to improve the reach and mechanics of crop insurance while helping to move farm policy away from unbudgeted ad hoc disaster assistance. The 2014 Farm Bill made the most significant changes to reach more producers and commodities than ever before.

“We should all be proud that crop insurance has grown into the number one risk management tool for the majority of farmers and ranchers across this great country,” added Roberts. “Let’s keep their tool box full so they can manage risks on their own operation, stay in business, and pass the farm onto the next generation.”

Crop Insurers Celebrate Past Success, Set Sights on Future

Crop insurers and farmers have shouldered their share of challenges in recent years, ranging from an historic drought to lower-than-expected financial returns, legislative debates, and implementing a new Farm Bill.

But Tim Weber, chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers and National Crop Insurance Services, said today that those challenges have only strengthened crop insurance providers and better equipped them for the future.

“I believe crop insurance is stronger today for the obstacles it has faced in recent years and most importantly, it is ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” he told colleagues at the industry’s annual conference.

Weber, who is coming to the end of his term as chairman, used his remarks to reflect back on lessons learned during pivotal years within the industry – a time, he said, when teamwork and building alliances was emphasized.

“Overall, I am very proud of what we have accomplished,” he said. “These accomplishments were the result of a hard-working, talented workforce that was willing to work together as [insurance providers], agents, adjusters, and industry allies to overcome attempts to weaken our farmers’ and ranchers’ most important risk management tool.”

Weber noted that, despite crop insurance’s past successes and its popularity with farmers, agriculture’s opponents will continue to criticize the farm safety net. He pointed to the recent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which sought to cut $300 million a year from crop insurance, as proof of that criticism and how rural America must counter it.

“Farmers from across the country came to our defense…as did the agent force, the lending community, input providers, Main Street businesses, the conservation world, and leading voices from academia,” he explained. “Notwithstanding this level of support…we would never have won this battle if not for the leadership of key lawmakers who were not bashful about standing up for agriculture.”

Weber urged the group to remain vigilant moving forward by focusing on industry cooperation and collaboration with third-party allies. He also urged insurers to invest time and resources in the political process as a way to blunt future critiques.

“We need all Members of Congress to hear directly from their constituents regarding the importance of maintaining an effective crop insurance program,” he concluded. “After all, every person in this country benefits from a dynamic, financially healthy agricultural industry. Not only does it provide a dependable supply of domestically grown food, fuel, and fiber, but it also supports economic and job growth.”

New Crop Insurance Video Tackles Common Farm Policy Misperceptions

Investing in farm policy and crop insurance benefits all Americans, according to a new video released today by National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).

The two-minute educational piece was made public as Congress works to reverse harmful cuts to crop insurance made during last month’s Budget Agreement.  If those cuts remain in place, agricultural leaders fear it would cripple private-sector delivery of crop insurance, and with it a key component of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Farm policy critics often use misinformation and misperceptions about agriculture to attack crop insurance, and NCIS produced its video to help combat those efforts.

“Instead of getting a check in the mail, farmers now get a bill,” the video explained. “And, because private insurers deliver the system and help shoulder risk, taxpayers aren’t left footing the whole bill when disaster strikes.”

The $4 billion a year farmers now spend to buy insurance protection stands in sharp contrast to the days of direct government payments and $70 billion in disaster bills before crop insurance’s rise to prominence, noted the video.

The piece also tackled the often-misunderstood issue of private-sector returns for delivering crop insurance.  Under a 2011 agreement between the government and crop insurers, 14.5 percent was targeted as an expected gross revenue.

“But those returns aren’t guaranteed and haven’t materialized,” NCIS said in its video.  “Actual gross revenue turned out to be 5.7 percent – not even half the targeted amount.  When you subtract expenses, crop insurers lost 1.4 percent from 2011 to 2014.”

The cuts included in the recent congressional budget package would lower returns by another 38 percent, further compounding private-sector losses and making it extremely difficult for crop insurance providers to stay in business.

“Unless this trend is reversed and the attacks on crop insurance stop, farmers will be left without the tools necessary to manage falling commodity prices and extreme weather,” the video concluded.  “Taxpayers will be left holding the bill once again.  And worst of all, because every American eats, every American will be harmed.”

The full video can be watched here.

Library of Congress Adds Crop Insurance Website to its Historical Collection

National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) announced today that its website has been selected by the United States Library of Congress (LOC) to be part of America’s historic collection of Internet materials.

For nearly two decades, the LOC has catalogued digital materials spanning a variety themes, events, and issue areas with the purpose of capturing records of historic significance that would otherwise be lost because they were never printed on paper.

The NCIS website, www.CropInsuranceInAmerica.org, will be a part of the archived public policy records.

“It is an honor that the crop insurance industry was chosen to be part of this esteemed collection,” said NCIS President Tom Zacharias.“Crop insurance has certainly made history in recent years by emerging as the cornerstone of U.S. farm policy and protecting the country’s farmers from historic floods and droughts.”

NCIS launched the website in 2008 to better explain the benefits of crop insurance to farmers, taxpayers, and consumers, and to demonstrate how the program helps drive the nation’s rural economy.

The site contains videos and testimonials from farmers following disasters; a section called “Just the Facts” that is devoted to answering policy questions with academic research and public data; an electronic version of the industry’s quarterly magazine Crop Insurance TODAY®, which dissects the issues facing crop insurance; and links to numerous press reports and quotes about the public-private partnership that has made the system such a success.

NCIS announced its selection to the LOC collection during a conference hosted by the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG). Agricultural leaders from more than 30 countries belong to AIAG and are visiting the United States for the first time to learn about U.S. farm policy and to discuss how insurance can help meet tomorrow’s global food challenges.

Technology, Sustainability, and Insurance Essential to Agriculture’s Future

Farmers and ranchers are tasked with producing more food and fiber than ever to meet the world’s growing appetite, and they have to do it while preserving scarce natural resources and dealing with extreme weather and volatile markets.

A combination of new technology, smarter farming practices, and government policies will be required to succeed, according to experts at an international agriculture summit here this week.

Don Preusser, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa, explained that the global agricultural sector is already evolving and altering the way the world farms.

“Agriculture is rapidly changing as operations become larger, more commercialized, technologically advanced, and vertically integrated,” he told attendees of the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG) biennial conference.

“Precision agriculture is driving significant productivity and efficiencies gains, helping to grow and secure global food needs,” Preusser concluded. “And granular field level data combined with predicative analytics will soon create new insights and innovative risk management solutions.”

When it comes to risk management, no tool is as important for U.S. farmers as crop insurance.  And AIAG traveled to America for its meeting so leaders from more than 30 countries could learn more about how the dynamic U.S. system operates.

Tom Zacharias, an AIAG board member and president of the Kansas-based National Crop Insurance Services, explained that the U.S. model is characterized by its unique private-public partnership and cost sharing.

“U.S. crop insurance benefits from the efficiency of the private sector, comprised of companies, agents, claims adjusters, and reinsurers” he said.  “Meanwhile, the government has made smart investments to keep policies affordable for farmers and widely available across a spectrum of crops and geographic locations.”

Zacharias also said that farmers bear a significant portion of the cost, which has had the desired effect of reducing taxpayer exposure to agricultural risk.  “U.S. producers collectively spend $4 billion from their own pockets each year for crop insurance, and they shoulder losses through deductibles before receiving an indemnity,” he noted.

But none of it would have been possible, Zacharias said, without a commitment from U.S. policymakers in recent years.  He hopes strong support will continue in the years to come and that America’s successes can provide a roadmap for insurers and farmers world-wide.

‘Crop Insurance: Just the Facts’ Update Released at Global Conference

As insurance leaders from more than 30 nations gather here to discuss farm policy and the challenges facing the global agricultural sector, National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) today released an updated version of “Crop Insurance: Just the Facts.”

This resource has been one of the most popular destinations on the NCIS website for years, and it uses government data, academic research, and information from other trusted sources to answer common questions about the U.S. crop insurance system.

NCIS President Tom Zacharias said the web-based tool should be valuable to his international colleagues and explained that it was important to ensure the site contained the most up-to-date information in time for the conference.

“Regardless of your level of knowledge of crop insurance, ‘Just the Facts’ will help you better understand the inner workings of the primary risk management tool for America’s farmers and ranchers,” he said.

The updates not only drill down on the new 2014 Farm Bill, but also cover other issues, including the economics of the crop insurance industry, how crop insurance benefits consumers and producers alike, and rebuttals to farm policy critics.

“It is essential that we provide an informative resource that sets the record straight on key issues in agricultural risk management and farm policy,” Zacharias explained. “Now policymakers and global leaders have a place to go to find just the facts about the questions they have about the cornerstone of America’s farm safety net.”

The International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG) – comprised of risk management leaders from Europe, Asia, Russia, and North and South America – are holding their biennial conference for the first time ever in the United States. The event runs through Wednesday.

“Crop Insurance: Just the Facts” is available at www.CropInsuranceInAmerica.org/about-crop-insurance/just-the-facts.

USDA Secretary Kicks Off International Crop Insurance Conference

Agricultural leaders from more than 30 nations are in America this week to discuss the challenge of feeding a growing world population and how crop insurance can help farmers rise to the task. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack was on hand to welcome the international delegation and provide his perspective.

“There are few people in the world today who can say that their work touches every single person on the planet, every single day. But farmers can say that,” the secretary observed today during his speech. “Farmers are powerful, but their charge is not without its challenges.”

Today’s farmer must deal with resource concerns and extreme weather, Vilsack explained, and crop insurance will be key to a farmer’s ability to do so in the future.

“In the wake of a devastating disaster, crop insurance offers a lifeline,” he said. “It is one of the most important, reliable, and cost-effective parts of the safety net here in the United States.”

Crop insurance gives farmers “hope during tough times” and “the gift of peace of mind,” according to Vilsack, who also detailed policy advancements made to the U.S. crop insurance system in recent years to improve its availability and affordability.

“Crop insurance has expanded because it works for farmers and it works for our taxpayers,” the secretary said of the public-private partnership, which is overseen by the USDA, serviced by private-sector insurance companies, and partially funded by farmers.

The success of the U.S. system is one reason the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG) chose America as the site for its conference, marking the first time that the group has met outside of Europe.

“We are here because the U.S. crop and revenue insurance program is the most developed and the most efficient system for farmers in the world,” AIAG President Kurt Weinberger said during his opening remarks.

Weinberger also noted that participants in this week’s summit will be busy discussing how farmers can use new technologies, new insurance products, new government policies, and new farming practices to deal with climate change and market volatility. The outcome of those discussions will be vitally important.

“Agriculture was, agriculture is, and agriculture will be the most important sector in the world because farmers are feeding the world’s population,” he concluded. “It is the future for all of us.”

Congressional Leaders Tout Crop Insurance at International Ag Conference

Key members from the United States Senate and House today explained the popularity and importance of crop insurance during a gathering of global insurance leaders from more than 30 countries.

“Your work across the globe to help producers manage the ever risky job of feeding the world is vitally important,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told the group.

Roberts serves as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and he called strengthening the public-private partnership of America’s crop insurance system one of his top priorities. Not surprisingly, steps to improve availability and access to crop insurance were key components of the 2014 Farm Bill.

“In the last Farm Bill, crop insurance was reaffirmed as the cornerstone of America’s agricultural safety net,” Roberts explained.

His counterpart in the House of Representatives agreed, noting that crop insurance will be essential in feeding a growing world population that is expected to hit 9.6 billion by 2050.

“To meet these challenges, producers must be able to remain in business over long periods of time,” said Congressman Mike Conaway (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “When it comes to navigating swings in both the market and the weather – all of which are out of the control of producers – crop insurance steps in to fill the void.”

Conaway said that private-sector delivery of crop insurance, with its unique cost-sharing structure to minimize taxpayer risk exposure and its ability to be tailored to individual farmer needs, have helped make it such a success.

But that success story will stall unless crop insurers continue to beat back political attacks in the annual budget and appropriations process. Luckily, they won’t be alone in the fight.

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), told the group, “I will continue to defend farmers and ranchers and to work against those who want to dismantle this very valuable program.”

Moran, who called crop insurance a “bright spot in our federal policies,” applauded insurers for supporting agriculture, strengthening the economy and securing the food and fiber supply.

“Without farmers and ranchers, rural America just doesn’t exist,” he concluded. “Without a viable crop insurance program, family farmers don’t exist.”

The conference is hosted by the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG) and is the first time this biennial meeting has been held in America. Roberts, Conaway, and Moran were unable to attend the event, which is being held in Kansas City, due to congressional votes in Washington, D.C., but sent personalized videos to the AIAG conference.

NCIS Outlines History of U.S. Farm Policy for International Guests

National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) today released a detailed explanation of the evolution of U.S. farm policy over the past two centuries and crop insurance’s recent rise to prominence.

The paper was included in NCIS’s quarterly magazine, Crop Insurance TODAY® and was made available at an international conference of agricultural leaders who traveled to the United States to discuss the policies and technologies that will be needed to meet the challenges facing the global farming community.

Maintaining a thriving agricultural sector, which supports the U.S. economy and domestic food security, has been a top policy priority in America from the beginning, NCIS explained. That protection currently comes in the form of a public-private insurance system that is delivered by insurance companies, partially funded by farmers, and can be tailored to suit an individual producer’s unique needs.

“What tomorrow holds is anyone’s guess, but charting a course for the future is not possible unless we understand the policy decisions of our past,” the article noted.

The advancement of crop insurance was largely in response to modern-day realities, including tight federal budgets, the capital-intensive nature of farming, extreme weather, and the efficiency required to compete in today’s global marketplace.

Like crop insurance, previous farm policies reflected the issues of the times in which they were written. For example, the 19th century focused on educating and communicating with farmers to improve efficiency; the concept of a safety net sprung out of the Great Depression; and disaster assistance became more prevalent after the weather disasters and market collapses of the 1980s.

“Getting to this point has required the foresight of leaders dating back to the founding of this great nation who shared a common goal of securing America’s food and fiber supply,” the article concluded. “It will be important that future leaders share this same overarching goal, and as a crop insurance industry, we must remain ready to do our part in meeting whatever challenges tomorrow may bring.”

The entire paper is available here. It was published to correspond with the biennial meeting of the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers (AIAG), which is being held this week for the first time in America.

Farmers Help Fund $14 Billion of the Farm Safety Net in 2014

Farmers who filed crop insurance claims in 2014 collectively shouldered approximately $10 billion in deductible losses before collecting any payments, according to new data unveiled today by the National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).

When combined with the $3.9 billion spent to buy insurance coverage in 2014, farmers absorbed at least $14 billion in out-of-pocket costs, which is well in excess of the $9 billion in insurance indemnity payments that flowed to rural America.

NCIS President Tom Zacharias said this is significant for several reasons.

“First, it shows that U.S. farmers are actively participating in the funding of their own safety net and minimizing taxpayer risk exposure,” he explained.   “It also proves that crop insurance is working as designed by helping farmers recover – not profit – from disaster.”

This was even the case after the historic 2012 drought, when farmers shouldered $17 billion in deductible losses and premium payments and received $17 billion in insurance payments.

Because farmers have substantial “skin in the game,” crop insurance helps reduce the cost of U.S. farm policy while discouraging risky behavior that may otherwise occur if taxpayers picked up 100 percent of the tab.

Zacharias said that growers favor the current system over past farm policies because crop insurance can be tailored to a farm’s unique characteristics and because efficient private companies administer crop insurance and speed relief when it is needed most.

The newly released deductible calculation completed the 2014 crop insurance picture.  Other relevant statistics were detailed in the May edition of NCIS’s Crop Insurance TODAY magazine and included:

  • 21 million policies were sold, protecting nearly $110 billion in crop value.
  • More than 294 million acres were insured, with a record 83.5 percent of those acres being insured at high coverage levels.
  • Private insurance companies successfully and efficiently processed claims on more than 441,000 policies.

NCIS noted that the $10 billion in deductible losses only reflects losses for crops on which an insurance claim was filed.  Farmers who shouldered smaller losses but did not file a claim are not included in the calculation.


Former USDA Chief Economist Discusses 40-Year Career, Farm Policy in New Videos

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) — Renowned agricultural economist Dr. Keith Collins reflects on his distinguished career and the future of farm policy in a series of videos released today by National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).

Collins spent 32 years in federal service, where he served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) chief economist to four secretaries of agriculture and as chairman of the board of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation for seven years.  After leaving USDA in 2008, he became a consultant to NCIS.

Collins recorded the three videos as one of his last projects before he officially retired from NCIS on March 31.

The videos attest to Collins’ nearly 40 years of farm policy experience, during which time he was a witness at 80 congressional hearings; received five Presidential Rank Awards for Distinguished or Meritorious Executive and was elected a fellow of the Agricultural  & Applied Economics Association.

“I have had the best of all possible careers over that period of time,” he said. “I owe a great deal of gratitude to the American farmer for what they have done, for the food that they produced, the way they produced it.”

Collins urged new administrations and members of Congress to recall the farm policies of the past and why decisions were made to make crop insurance the centerpiece of today’s farm safety net.

“Look at the program that we have today, look at where it came from, look at how it evolved, how it emerged as the best of many different programs that were tried over the years,” he said.  “And the success of the program has hinged on it being available to producers widely across America, being affordable for producers large and small, and having a private-sector [component] that is financially viable.”

Collins concluded saying, “Looking to the future, we want to prevent anything that would undo the success of this program.”

The first video is Collins’ testimonial, chronicling why Congress turned to crop insurance as the foundation of the farm safety net, and it is available here.

The second video tracks farm policy’s journey from complete government control to being more market oriented and driven by the private sector.  It can be viewed here.

Finally, Collins discusses why affordability, availability and viability of crop insurance are so crucial in the third recording, which can be seen here.

Ag Groups Ready to Work Together to Defend Crop Insurance

Representatives of various agricultural groups in Washington, D.C. voiced support for crop insurance during the annual meeting of the American Association of Crop Insurers and the National Crop Insurance Services.  The session was designed to give crop insurers perspective not only from Capitol Hill, but also from farmers across the country.

“We want crop insurance for all commodities in all states. It’s very clear every commodity wants to have crop insurance,” said American Farm Bureau Federation’s Mary Kay Thatcher.

“Our farming members are by and large very happy with the crop insurance options in front of them,” added Bev Paul of the American Soybean Association.

The message was consistent with a letter that more than 30 groups sent to Congressional committees last week expressing disappointment in the president’s budget proposal that undermined crop insurance. The groups encouraged Congressional leaders to look elsewhere when they prepare their own budget plans. In the letter, they explained “budget levels currently in place for crop insurance ensure the affordability and availability of risk protection, while maintaining the viability of private-sector delivery.”

Indeed, these three tenets of affordability, availability, and viability were mentioned as the key to keeping the crop insurance system working effectively and efficiently. Another takeaway from panelists was the importance of sticking together and building alliances to make sure crop insurers can continue to offer a variety of options to farmers.

“Our focus in the years to come will be defending what we have,” said Robbie Minnich of the National Cotton Council of America.


Crop Insurers’ Returns in Question

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) – Financial returns for crop insurers have fallen nearly 60 percent below expectations since 2011, according to the National Crop Insurance Services, the industry’s main trade organization.

The Standard Reinsurance Agreement — the business contract between the federal government and private-sector insurers that went into effect in 2011 — targeted average returns on retained premium of 14.5 percent.  Returns on retained premium have averaged only 6 percent over the four-year period.

And because these calculations only measure gross revenue, not net profit, the actual financial pain has been far greater, said NCIS Chairman Tim Weber.  When expenses are subtracted from gross revenue, average net profit since 2011 has been less than 1 percent, with the industry experiencing negative returns in 2012.

This “falls well short of the averages for other lines of property and casualty insurance,” Weber noted when he spoke today at the industry’s annual convention.

Weber explained that unexpected premium reductions implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2012, $600 million a year in reduced funding under the SRA, increased regulatory burdens, falling crop prices, and bad weather have caused the poor financial performance.

The worst year, 2012, saw companies absorb $1.3 billion in underwriting losses when premiums collected failed to cover indemnities paid out during the record drought.

“Companies need to make a reasonable return on their investment to stay in business…but we cannot do it for free, or worse yet, a negative return,” Weber said.

Crop insurers at the convention expressed disappointment in recent remarks by the Agriculture Secretary, who misinformed reporters about industry returns while advocating for additional funding cuts.

“One of those reforms would be to take a look at what the average rate of return is on crop insurance.  Today it’s roughly 14 [to] 15 percent on average of return on investment,” Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an interview with Politico.

“The Secretary is pointing to revenue projected by the USDA, not what has actually materialized in the marketplace,” noted Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS.  “And the budget proposed by this administration would only further jeopardize the farm safety net.”

The President’s proposed budget would strip an additional $1.6 billion a year from the crop insurance system, which, Zacharias said, “leaves farmers and taxpayers more vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature.”


New Congressional Ag Leaders Pledge to Protect & Strengthen Crop Insurance, Encourage Teamwork to Address Challenges Ahead

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) — The new leaders of the agriculture committees in Congress addressed crop insurers during the annual meeting of the American Association of Crop Insurers and the National Crop Insurance Services and pledged to protect and strengthen this public-private partnership.

In separate taped videos, Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Rep. K. Michael Conaway, the chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, delivered parallel messages explaining how the 2014 Farm Bill made crop insurance the key risk management tool available to farmers.

“Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net,” said Roberts. “You have my word to continue to protect, preserve, and improve the number one risk management tool in every farmer’s toolbox.”

They also warned about the challenges ahead and stressed the need to work as a team to stave off attacks.

“The critics of farm policy and crop insurance are not going to go away,” explained Conaway. “Despite some $17 billion in cuts to crop insurance, some are pushing for even more. They bill it as reform, but we all know their real end game is to kill crop insurance.

Roberts added, “Together we must be ready and willing to tell stories of the great successes” of crop insurance.


Crop Insurers to Leave No Attack on Crop Insurance Unchallenged in 2015

(BONITA SPRINGS, Fla.) — With crop insurance now cemented as the cornerstone of U.S. farm policy, political attacks are inevitable. But crop insurers will make education a top priority in 2015 and will address the critics, said Tim Weber, chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers and National Crop Insurance Services.

“Those with an agenda or an anti-agriculture bent cannot be given free rein to define our industry or the policies that underpin the rural economy,” he explained today during the industry’s annual convention. “No one knows the virtues of crop insurance better than the men and women in this room, and I challenge us all today to leave no attack unchallenged in 2015.”

Weber noted three pillars that are essential for the continued success of crop insurance. They will be the focus of educational efforts and include: Keeping crop insurance affordable for producers to promote wide-scale participation; making sure it is widely available for numerous crops in all geographic locations; and ensuring the viability of private-sector insurance delivery.

“We have a great story to tell, and if we don’t tell it, then no one will – certainly not the way it must be told,” Weber said.

In addition to stepped-up education efforts, Weber said 2015 priorities will include working with allies and building new partnerships, making investments in the private-sector delivery system to constantly improve efficiency, and tirelessly guarding program integrity by stamping out waste, fraud and abuse.

“Make no mistake, crop insurance’s days of flying under the radar are done,” he concluded, “but we have a wonderful industry, supporting a sector that is arguably more important to America than any other, [and] we have lots of friends on Capitol Hill and in the farming community.”








ICYMI: Farmers Grow Florida Jobs, Crop Insurance Protects Them

On the eve of the annual convention in Florida, the president of the National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), Tom Zacharias, penned an editorial for the Fort Myers News-Press highlighting how important agriculture is to the state’s economy and how crop insurance is the key to protecting this industry from disaster.

In the piece, Zacharias explains how, contrary to popular belief, crop insurance is available for a variety of crops nationwide and more specialty crop growers are using crop insurance as their key risk management tool. Florida growers purchased more than $1.3 billion in annual protection for orange trees alone and another half a billion for nursery crops.

Over the next few days, crop insurers, agricultural leaders, and government officials will be discussing ways to continually improve the system so that crop insurance remains affordable, widely available, and viable for growers in Florida and all across the country.

The full editorial follows and is linked here:

Pop quiz: Next to tourism, what Florida industry is the state’s largest employer?

The answer isn’t healthcare, transportation, technology or even government. Agriculture is Florida’s second biggest job supplier, according to the University of Florida.

“Two million jobs can be traced to the state’s agriculture, natural resources and related food industries — and not just on our 47,500 farms. Income from $142 billion in annual sales gets spent around the state to create jobs in restaurants, department stores and car dealerships, too,” Jack Payne of the University’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences said during a recent media interview.

Despite their importance, farmers and all they support are at the mercy of a multitude of uncontrollable forces.

A year of hard work and investment can be wiped out in an instant by a late-season hurricane, an early frost or an unexpected outbreak of insects or plant disease.

And the ever-looming prospect of a changing climate could be “potentially catastrophic,” according to Payne, as it wreaks havoc on water supplies, soil conditions and land use.

So how do farmers gain some control over the uncontrollable and add stability to the region’s economy.

Crop insurance is key.

Farmers purchase protection from weather disasters and price volatility, while private-sector insurers underwrite policies, verify claims and speed assistance to farmers when it is needed most.

The government, in turn, helps discount premiums to promote farmer participation and shield taxpayers from unbudgeted disaster aid that would be necessary without the private-sector insurance structure.

Crop insurance was long viewed as a tool primarily used by corn, soybean and wheat farmers in the nation’s midsection. But lately, specialty crop participation along the coasts is growing and insurance protection is available on more than 100 different crops nationwide.

More than $1.3 billion in annual insurance protection is being purchased for Florida orange trees alone with another half a billion for nursery crops. And thank goodness farmers are purchasing these policies.

In the back-to-back disaster years of 2004 and 2005, for example, more than $400 million in indemnity checks flowed to farmers in the state to help them pick up the pieces following hurricanes.

More can be done, too, to make insurance even more attractive to Florida’s farming community and help growers buy higher coverage levels to shield against tomorrow’s disasters.

The 2014 Farm Bill took initial steps by strengthening insurance for organic growers and making it more accessible for beginning farmers. Other provisions boosted protection for livestock producers and will help bring new insurance products to the marketplace.

From Feb. 8-11, leaders from the crop insurance industry, American agriculture and the federal government will be at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in Bonita Springs to discuss risk protection in the 21st century and what can be done to continually improve the system.

Among the key discussion points: Keeping crop insurance affordable for all farmers regardless of their size or planting choices; ensuring widespread availability of insurance across all states and numerous crops; and maintaining the viability of private-sector delivery, which is far more efficient and effective than a government-managed alternative.

It is a packed agenda, and as the cornerstone of today’s farm policy, crop insurers have a lot to discuss. However, I fully expect us to do our part in supporting the other major Florida employer – tourism – while we are in town.

Tom Zacharias is president of National Crop Insurance Services, based in Overland Park, Kan.

Private-Sector Delivery Essential to Crop Insurance’s Future

Private companies are integral to crop insurance’s future because they shoulder risk that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers and because they maintain the system used to efficiently provide assistance to farm families following disasters.

However if the business does not remain viable, private-sector participation could wane, which would weaken America’s farm policy, according to a new video released today by National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).

“Key to this viability is a reasonable rate of return for insurers on the infrastructure they built to deliver farmers’ most important risk management tool,” the video explained.  “An adequate return on investment enables insurance providers to routinely reinvest in technology, infrastructure efficiency, and service improvements for farmers and ranchers.  Unfortunately, adequate returns don’t always happen.”

Among the factors that have made crop insurance less viable in recent years:

·         Weather disasters and crop price volatility since 2011 have resulted in record loss payments from crop insurance providers;

·         $1.2 billion a year in federal funding was cut in 2008 and 2011; and

·         Farm policy opponents are targeting crop insurance for further funding reductions.

The 2014 Farm Bill took steps towards improving crop insurance by expanding coverage, by bringing new customers into the system, and by providing new tools to continually minimize waste, fraud, and abuse.

Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS, applauded Congress’ actions and said it will be important to continue making improvements by reducing regulatory burdens, avoiding further funding cuts, and keeping crop insurance actuarially sound.  And he believes that all Americans have a stake in the future of crop insurance.

“After all, not everyone farms, but everyone eats.  So everyone depends on a strong farm policy,” the video concluded.

The NCIS video, which can be viewed here, is the last in a three-part series dedicated to the key policy attributes essential to crop insurance’s continued success.  Previous pieces examined the importance of making crop insurance widely available and affordable to farmers.



Affordability of Crop insurance Policies Focus of New Video

Crop insurance policies must remain affordable for farmers and ranchers or the entire farm safety net will fail, crop insurance providers said today in a new educational video.

Farmers help fund current farm policy by spending approximately $4 billion a year out of their own pockets on crop insurance policies and by shouldering a portion of losses in the form of deductibles before receiving assistance.

“But if insurance bills get too big, or deductible losses get too high, fewer farmers will sign up for policies, and the whole system will collapse,” noted the video.  “If that happens, not only will it be harder for farm families to bounce back after disaster, but costs that are currently being borne by farmers and private insurance providers will shift back to taxpayers.”

Congress took steps in the 2014 Farm Bill to keep crop insurance affordable.  Among the steps spotlighted in the video:

  • Farmers receive discounts on the premiums they pay for coverage, including discounts for new and beginning farmers looking to start a career in agriculture.
  • Supplemental coverage is made available to help counterbalance a portion of deductible losses.
  • And Congress defeated attempts by some opponents of agriculture to cap crop insurance benefits and make policies more expensive for everyone.

This is the second in a series of educational videos meant to highlight three policy attributes that are essential to maintaining a strong crop insurance system.  The first three-minute segment examined the importance of making crop insurance, widely available, and a future piece will look at maintaining the viability of private-sector delivery.

“Congress cemented crop insurance’s role as the centerpiece of the farm safety net during the 2014 Farm Bill,” explained Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), the trade group that sponsored the video series.  “However, that safety net will breakdown if crop insurance policies aren’t widely available, aren’t affordable to producers, and aren’t economically viable to be administered by efficient private insurance providers.”

The affordability video can be viewed here.  Other videos are available on NCIS’ YouTube channel.

New NCIS Video: Availability Key to Crop Insurance’s Future

Crop insurance providers today released the first in a series of educational videos meant to highlight three policy attributes that are essential to maintaining a strong crop insurance system in the face of future market and weather challenges.

The first three-minute segment examines the widespread availability of crop insurance, whereas future videos will look at the affordability of policies and the viability of private-sector delivery.

“Congress cemented crop insurance’s role as the centerpiece of the farm safety net during the 2014 Farm Bill,” explained Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services, the trade group that sponsored the video series.  “However, that safety net will collapse if crop insurance policies aren’t widely available, aren’t affordable to producers, and aren’t economically viable to be administered by efficient private insurance providers.”

According to the first video, “Crop insurance is similar to other kinds of insurance. The more people who purchase policies, the more people who help share risk.  And when risk can be spread out along a broader base, it helps lower the cost for everyone.”

That is why it is it is so important for insurance to be available for all kinds of crops and to farmers of all sizes and backgrounds, NCIS noted.

“The more the merrier.  From corn and cotton to cherries and canola, every single acre enrolled helps strengthen the whole system,” the video explained.

The recently passed Farm Bill took big steps to make crop insurance more available to beginning farmers, organic producers, and fruit and vegetable growers.  Lawmakers also stopped legislative attempts to reduce insurance benefits available to larger farms – a plan that would have raised costs on all farmers and increased taxpayers’ risk exposure

“Congress got it right by making crop insurance more widely available and stronger than ever.  Now, we just need to keep it that way,” the video concluded.  “After all, not everyone farms, but everyone eats.  So everyone depends on a strong farm policy.”

The NCIS video can be viewed here.  Segments on affordability and viability will be released in the coming weeks.




2013 Year in Review: New Policy and Coverage Milestones for Crop Insurance

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) — Crop insurance reached significant and historic milestones in 2013 — both in its formal recognition by Congress as the primary risk management tool for farmers and the volume of protection it offered — according to an article released in the May 2014 edition of Crop Insurance TODAY.

“Again in 2013, crop insurance helped farmers deal with the year’s weather and market risks,” noted authors Keith Collins and Harun Bulut. “Crop insurance was singled out by legislators during the development of the new Farm Bill as the primary program supporting production agriculture and was heralded as indispensable for successful farming today,” they added.

The ability of farmers to rely on the crop insurance policies they had purchased gave them confidence to plant yet another year of near record total production, the authors explain. “Farmers were able to plant 325 million acres in the spring of 2013, down slightly from a year earlier but four million [acres] above the previous five year average.”

The article points out that looking to the future, the public can rest assured that crop insurance will be in place to provide financial stability for the many small, family farms that comprise the core of U.S. farm production. “Crop insurance will ensure that when the repeated disasters of recent years strike again, as they most assuredly will, U.S. farmers will be able to bounce back to produce again at high levels the food, feed, fiber and energy crops which the U.S. and world populations have come to expect and depend,” they said.


2014 Farm Bill Changes to Crop Insurance Detailed in Newly Released “Crop Insurance: Just the Facts”

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) — As the 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law, questions have arisen about how this new legislation affects crop insurance and the farmers who rely on it. A detailed analysis that will answer those questions, including major and minor policy changes, the introduction of new products including SCO and STAX and the link between the premium discount and conservation are all detailed in the newly released version of Crop Insurance: Just the Facts.

“The 2014 Farm Bill is a turning point in federal policy towards agriculture, pivoting away from the traditional support mechanism paradigm of the past and into a risk management model that features crop insurance as farmers’ primary — or only — risk management tool,” noted Tom Zacharias, President of National Crop Insurance Services.

Crop Insurance: Just the Facts, a popular online resource that provides the A to Z overview of federal crop insurance resides here, on the Crop Insurance Keeps America Growing website page “About Crop Insurance” where it is continuously updated.

“This resource has proved invaluable to farmers, students and policy experts who need to better understand the nuts and bolts of crop insurance,” said Zacharias.

In addition to addressing the various aspects of the new Farm Bill, the online series covers important topics such as how crop insurance benefits the public, economics of the industry, risk management in global terms, how crop insurance benefits producers and many other important issues.

Zacharias noted that when it comes to the important details of crop insurance, the reason why farmers, farm groups, the financial community and lenders have thrown their strong support behind crop insurance, and why it has evolved into the main risk management tool for American agriculture, discussions are replete with exaggerations and misrepresentations about crop insurance. “Crop Insurance: Just the Facts, provides the details in an easy to read, reasoned and balanced perspective,” he said.



Conservation Community Makes Crop Insurance Stronger

(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told crop insurers this week that in addition to farmer support, new coalitions would be needed to defend the policy from critics in the future.

Agriculture’s work with the conservation community will be at the forefront of that effort, and Dan Wrinn with Ducks Unlimited (DU) Monday said the relationships forged during the Farm Bill debate would continue well into the future.

“We put this coalition together and it worked, but it doesn’t end here,” he explained during an annual convention hosted by National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and American Association of Crop Insurance.

Crop insurance companies and agents worked closely with DU and other conservation groups during the debate to establish common-sense conservation compliance requirements for crop insurance participation. The groups also successfully fended off legislative attacks meant to weaken crop insurance through arbitrary limits on benefits and income means testing.

“Our coalition drew a lot of attention [because people] saw what the potential was…if you get crop insurance, if you can get commodity groups, and if you can get the conservation groups to come together,” Wrinn said.

The 2014 Farm Bill also improves crop insurance coverage available to fruit and vegetable farmers, organic crop producers, and livestock operators. And these improvements should further increase crop insurance’s support with other essential constituencies, explained Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS.

“Crop insurance has a proven track record and a promising future,” Zacharias said. “We are proud of our product and are eager to work with others to tell that story.”