Michigan Crop Insurance Adjusters, Agents Play Key Role in Food Supply

Larry Westerhoven knows apples.

As a crop insurance adjuster in Michigan, it’s his job to say what a crop is worth after hail or frost.

“If a guy has problems with his crop, I go out and appraise it,” he said. “I put a value on that crop. Most of these guys around here raise apples for the grocery stores, bagged apples or tray packs or this and that. So, I’ll make an appraisal on that and put a grade on the apples and then they make a decision what they want to do with it.”

Larry was one of several crop insurance adjusters and agents National Crop Insurance Services visited on our recent trip to Michigan.

Scott Colville’s family has been selling crop insurance since 1967. He takes pride in helping farmers stay in business after weather disasters.

“The reason crop insurance even exists is to help the American people and keep the food prices down,” he said. “And you can only do that if the farming community is able to farm and continue farming in a bad year. I would like to see Congress protect what we have in crop insurance and expand it.”

Colton Geiger, a field marketing representative, enjoys working with insurance agents to make sure they understand the latest products and the changes in the industry. He comes from a farming family.

“I think the work really matters in terms of working with farmers and making sure that they can keep farming for years to come,” he said. “Something that I grew up with, you know, in my family, just carrying that farming tradition on down the line.”

Back on the apple farm, Larry said its gratifying to help a farmer make a good decision about a crop because the margins have become so slim.

He hopes Congress will maintain and expand crop insurance in the next Farm Bill.

“Well, I just ask Congress, do they want to eat?” he said. “You want to put these guys out of business or we don’t grow food in this nation anymore? You know, we’re still a leader in food production. I’d like to see us stay there.”

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

Celebrating America’s Farmers & the Policies that Protect Them

Brett Anderson walked the rows on his Michigan farm and inspected a strong crop of apples. He grabbed one and looked closer at a small indentation with an eye informed by 100 years of family experience.

The little indentation probably won’t mean much by harvest. Brett has seen hailstorms that beat and bruised his apples to the point where the value dropped to a quarter of what this crop may bring.

“Thankfully, this year we’ve been really blessed,” he said.

Brett’s family farm is just one of approximately two million farms in the United States. On National Farmer’s Day, we celebrate the incredible contributions of American farmers, just like Brett, and the important work that they do to feed, clothe, and fuel our nation.

Each of America’s two million farms is unique, requiring a personalized risk management tool. Thankfully, crop insurance allows America’s farmers and ranchers to create a risk management plan tailored to their needs. Crop insurance insures farms in all 50 states.

“Crop insurance has become so vital…no matter what happens in this coming crop season, I will have the ability to pay my bills, to keep my workers employed, and to be able to continue this this family farm that has been here for over 100 years,” Brett told National Crop Insurance Services on a recent trip to Michigan.

Brett was just one of several farms that we visited to capture the Real Stories of America’s farmers and crop insurance agent and adjusters.

Shelly Hartmann enjoyed a handful of ripe blueberries while inspecting the bushes on her farm.

“The thing I love about blueberries is that, you know, it’s nature’s perfect fruit. There’s no waste, it’s 100 percent consumable,” she said.

Shelly believes Congress should maintain crop insurance as an affordable and available risk management tool in the next Farm Bill. She relies on it at her farm. “Crop insurance is really a big tool that we use here to help us offset any unexpected weather events, production losses, market loss as well,” she said.

Vegetable farmer Travis Horkey pulled the tractor forward as his crew harvested big green bell peppers, loading them bucket by bucket into the cart. Crop insurance is an important tool in helping him with the challenges of farming.

“You never know what’s going to come at us,” Travis said. “We could have a drought all spring and summer followed by a flood in the fall just before harvest. And that would be devastating to our business and also affect our employees and our customers, our suppliers, our community.”

“I like the seasonality of farming,” he continued. “I like the challenge of just bringing all the ends together and getting the job done.”

To farmers from Michigan to Mississippi, Maine to Montana, and every state in between: thank you for getting the job done, every single day.

“The Most Successful Thing We’ve Done in Agriculture”

Former Minnesota congressman Collin Peterson knows farm policy. As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Peterson played a key role in several Farm Bills. Peterson recently spoke at an Agri-Pulse event about the critical role crop insurance plays in the farm safety net.

“The most successful thing we’ve done in agriculture, and clearly during my career was crop insurance,” Peterson said.

As farm disasters have threatened farms in recent years, Peterson also urged Congress to utilize the next Farm Bill to improve crop insurance and expand coverage where needed, rather than create a separate new permanent disaster program. Peterson warned that a permanent disaster program would “undermine crop insurance.”

Policy experts and politicians aren’t the only ones speaking out in support of crop insurance. We’ve spent the year talking to farmers on the ground about how crop insurance helps them manage their risks and gives them the tools to improve resiliency.

  • “[Crop insurance has] been a tremendous help. It is a very affordable tool that allows you to minimize or manage some risk and have a small return if the weather goes against you.” – Gayle Smith, North Carolina rancher
  • “We use crop insurance for the fact that if something bad happens, we don’t want to lose our livelihood.” – Jim Carroll, fourth-generation Arkansas farmer
  • “Crop insurance helps me relieve the stress knowing that if something happened, disaster happened on the farm, I do have something to fall back on. That I won’t… lose everything.” – Michael Moore, third-generation North Carolina farmer
  • “Crop insurance basically ensures that the growers are going to be farming next year.” – Landrum Weathers, fifth-generation South Carolina farmer and crop insurance agent
  • “Without crop insurance… this farm would not still be here. It would be gone.” – Brian McClam, seventh-generation South Carolina farmer
  • “We put so much money into the crop that we can’t afford to miss a crop. Or not to have a safety net if we do.” – Scott Flowers, Mississippi farmer

These testimonials represent the immense trust that farmers place in crop insurance. Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net, insuring 445 million acres in 2021.

It is critical that crop insurance remain affordable, effective, viable, and adaptable. This ensures that farmers have a risk management plan to prepare for the unexpected and the confidence to plant again after disaster.

“It’s going to give us more backstop against the ups and downs of agriculture,” Peterson said. “And that’s always going to be there. You know, it’s just a dangerous business.”

Crop Insurance Basics: Specialty Crops

When you think of farming, you might first think of fields of corn sprawled across the Midwest. But America’s farmers grow many different types of fruits and vegetables, requiring a crop insurance program that is as diverse as the crops it protects.

Crop insurance is a customizable tool that allows America’s farmers and ranchers to create a risk management plan tailored to their needs. That means growers can be covered:

Crop insurance has become the cornerstone of the farm safety net and provides every farmer with access to an affordable risk management tool. A new report from the Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that over the past two decades, the value of specialty crops protected by crop insurance has tripled. Total specialty crop liabilities have grown from $7 billion in 2000 to $21 billion in 2020. As ERS points out in their report, all farmers face risks, “but the nature of specialty crop production and marketing may heighten exposure to some of these risks.”

Crop insurance has expanded and improved over time, particularly for specialty crops or growers not adequately served by other risk management tools. For example, the 2014 Farm Bill included a new policy specifically meant to expand coverage options for diversified farming operations: Whole-Farm Revenue Protection. The introduction of Whole-Farm Revenue Protection offers diversified farmers – such as fruit and vegetable growers, and organic growers – more flexible, affordable risk management options.

Brian Campbell is a diversified produce farmer in Pennsylvania who credits crop insurance and the protection afforded by Whole-Farm Revenue Protection for his success. “If it wasn’t for whole farm revenue protection today, you know, I may not be at the size that I am,” Brian told National Crop Insurance Services.

Across the country, Lupe Guzman in California also relies on crop insurance to protect his family farming operation, which includes 1,300 acres of certified organic crops, such as avocados, lemons, mandarins, and Valencia oranges.

“By having the crop insurance, we’re able to guarantee that if for some reason we do have a bad freeze, we’ll be able to fall back on that insurance so that we can keep farming the following years,” Lupe said.

Another organic grower, Michael Sahr in Michigan, agrees that crop insurance is important to protecting his farm and our food supply. “Without crop insurance, we’d have so much devastation that the farmers would go out of business, and you would be paying a lot more money for your food,” he said.

“You could have a beautiful crop one day, and the next day, a big weather event happens, and you don’t have that anymore,” Michigan blueberry grower Shelly Hartmann said. “Crop insurance is really a big tool that we use here to help us offset any unexpected weather events.”

An untimely freeze, for example, can destroy a crop of table grapes growing at the Kirschenmann Brothers Farming Company in California. “Crop insurance gives us a little safety net,” Kenneth Kirschenmann said. “It doesn’t solve all the problems if we had a 100 percent wipeout, but it does keep us in business.”

California grower Devon Yurosek farms several tree crops, including pistachios, cherries, and pomegranates. The nature of these crops means that Devon and his family have one shot to make a good crop each year, stay in business, and keep their workers employed.

“We have to be able to pay the bills. In bad years, it’s difficult to do if you don’t have a crop on the trees. That’s where crop insurance has been a huge help to us,” Devon explained.

Produce and other specialty crops aren’t the only non-traditional crop that is covered by crop insurance. Pasture, rangeland, and forage (PRF) insurance helps farmers when they don’t receive the expected rainfall needed to keep their pastures productive for feeding livestock.

Pennsylvania farmer John Ligo turned to his PRF policy when a drought reduced his grass yield on the acres he uses to help feed his 600 head of cattle. “One of those things that we can do to manage crop production risk is crop insurance,” he said.

Farmers trust crop insurance to help them manage the highly specialized risks of farming they face today.

Farmers Praise Crop Insurance at Field Hearings

The House Agriculture Committee recently handed farmers in Minnesota and Ohio the microphone to ask them what rural America would like to see in the next Farm Bill. A common refrain? Protect crop insurance.

We’ve compiled several highlights from these field hearings – check them out below.

Growers in both states stated that a strong crop insurance program is key in the next Farm Bill. It was named as the top Farm Bill priority for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, and the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.

As the cornerstone of the farm safety net, it’s clear that crop insurance has earned the overwhelming trust of America’s farmers.

“Crop insurance has demonstrated itself to be an invaluable tool for wheat farmers in Ohio and across the country where we see more frequent weather disruptions and unprecedented increase in prices for inputs,” Ohio farmer Paul Herringshaw said.

The uncertainty of the current farm economy and the financial stress of high input prices were common themes in the hearings.

“High fuel, high crop inputs, economy-wide inflationary pressures, these are all chipping away at margins. Given this, the Farm Bill safety net and crop insurance are… very key to creating a predictable operating environment for these farmers,” explained KC Graner, the Senior Vice President of Agronomy at Central Farm Service, headquartered in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s hosting farmer, Bruce Peterson, cited a number of reasons why crop insurance is important, including the premium discount provided for young farmers. This additional discount for young farmers not only makes crop insurance affordable, but it also allows them to secure an operating loan.

“Once they can take that that crop insurance coverage to their lender, that’s a key point and especially important now with our costs continuing to ratchet higher, much more expensive to put a crop in now than many years ago,” Peterson explained.

Eric Hokanson deals with both sides of the farm and finance equation, growing soybeans in Minnesota while working at farm credit cooperative Compeer Financial. “[Crop insurance] is vital to all sizes and scopes of farms here in the U.S. This allows farmers to hedge their risks and market their crops. This is especially important to young farmers like myself to be able to have a guaranteed source of repayment when disaster strikes or Mother Nature decides to not cooperate,” he testified.

Congress also heard from organic farmers, including Ohio grower Eli Dean, who praised the individualized and responsive nature of crop insurance. “[Crop insurance] works great for our farm. It works great for our communities… if we have a disaster, we are compensated for it quickly.”

We appreciate Congress taking the time to travel the country to hear directly from America’s farmers. Want to learn more about crop insurance? Visit CropInsuranceInAmerica.org to watch more Real Stories from America’s heartland.

Crop Insurance Keeps Farmers Fighting

Weather is one of a farmers’ top concerns. Just enough sun and rain will power a plant, resulting in a good yield. But too much sun and not enough rain, or too much rain and not enough sun, and a farmer might soon be counting his losses.

The challenges presented by weather volatility was something that we heard repeatedly from farmers in hurricane-prone South Carolina. Fifth-generation farmer Landrum Weathers said that “every year that we don’t get a named storm that hits here is a good year.”

Landrum farms corn, peanuts, soybeans and cotton while also working as a crop insurance agent with the Agriliance Insurance Group. He said choosing to purchase crop insurance is not a difficult decision. It helps sustain his farm, so he can keep producing food and fiber.

“Crop insurance basically ensures that the growers are going to be farming next year. That means that our country doesn’t have to call somebody else, I don’t care who, to get food,” Landrum said.

J.C. Carroll, who founded Agriliance Insurance Group alongside Ben Tillman, echoed Landrum’s comments on food security, explaining “it’s important for farmers to protect themselves with crop insurance. I think that crop insurance is our best safety net… It gives us food security.”

Weather was also top of mind for Johnny Watts, a fourth-generation farmer who grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle. “Every time a storm makes up out in the Atlantic, you kind of hold your breath and, you know, is this going to be it.”

Each storm brings with it a feeling of hopelessness. Farmers can prepare for every scenario, but they can’t hold back Mother Nature.

“You could have a great crop today. Tomorrow, you may not,” Johnny said.

“No farmer wants to have a loss,” explained Brian McClam, a seventh-generation farmer. Brian grows cotton, soybeans, and corn, and has had a couple close calls when it comes to natural disasters.

“Without crop insurance… this farm would not still be here. It would be gone,” Brian said.

Several years ago, seventh-generation farmer Neal Baxley watched as a foot and a half of rain washed away the crops he was about to harvest. An entire growing season, and the expenses and inputs and time that went into that season, gone.

Crop insurance helped soften the blow. Neal said there is a misconception that crop insurance covers a farmer’s entire loss. “It’s not going to make him completely whole but it’s a tool that can try to help him get him through to the next year.”

As Johnny Watts said, “You live to fight another day because of crop insurance.”

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

American Farmers Feed the World

“If you really want to get in the weeds or, in a lot of cases, in the dirt with crop insurance, you need to go out to the field.”

National Crop Insurance Services recently did just that, traveling to North Carolina to capture the real stories of both the farmers who rely on crop insurance and the people who provide coverage advice. That’s where we met Ruth Fulford, a crop risk advisor and care consultant with Flatlands Insurance Group.

Ruth, who was the recipient of the 2022 Crop Insurance Outstanding Service Award for outreach to limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers, is one of the many agents who write crop insurance policies in North Carolina. These policies protect crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, cabbage, sweet potatoes, sage, peanuts, produce and more. Collectively, crop insurance protects 3.5 million acres and more than $2.1 billion worth of crops in North Carolina.

Farmers across the state trust crop insurance to help them manage their risks. Farmers like Rena Eure, who owns a family farm with her husband and son. “What I love about farming is just being able to be out in nature and put a seed in the ground and watch it grow.”

The work of farming is the easy part, Rena told us. It’s the weather risks, financial stress, and supply chain challenges that make farming difficult. And there is a lot riding on the line.

“If we don’t have farmers, we don’t have food or the fiber you know, for the world basically,” Rena said.

Cattle rancher Gayle Smith pointed out that farmers do what they do because they love it. “We feel good about what we do because we provide a quality product for a world, and we willingly make those sacrifices.”

Even though she raises livestock, Gayle considers herself a grass farmer, first and foremost, with the cattle acting as large lawnmowers. But when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, and Gayle doesn’t have enough grass or hay to feed her cattle, that’s when she turns to crop insurance.

“It’s been a tremendous help. It is a very affordable tool that allows you to minimize or manage some risk and have a small return if it if the weather goes against you,” Gayle said.

This message was echoed by Charlotte Vick, who grows row crops alongside her parents on the farm they started with just 25 acres in 1975. “That’s really the main reason that we carry the crop insurance. To try to protect against the weather because you know, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

America’s farmers and ranchers are the foundation of our food supply and critical drivers to the farm economy. The Moore family understands this better than most. Michael is a third-generation family while Antoine is a branch loan officer at AgCarolina Farm Credit and farms with his father.

“Crop insurance helps me relieve the stress knowing that if something happened, disaster happened on the farm, I do have something to fall back on. That I won’t lose, completely, lose everything,” Michael said.

Antoine, on the other hand, pointed out that having a solid risk management plan is a critical consideration for lenders, giving them more certainty when approving farm loans. “Certainly, that makes a huge impact, not just on that farmer, but also on that rural community that relies on that farmer to produce a crop,” Antoine said.

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

Crop Insurance Protects Farmers from Sea to Shining Sea

As we celebrate America’s independence this weekend, let’s also take a moment to celebrate the incredible farmers and ranchers who feed America. Farmers are key to maintaining our freedom and our food security. 

That is why we work hard to ensure that all farmers have the tools they need to manage their risks and grow the crops that feed, fuel and clothe America. Crop insurance provides an invaluable safety net for farmers in all 50 states – from sea to shining sea. 

How does crop insurance protect your state? Visit CropInsuranceInMyState.org to explore 50 brand-new fact sheets highlighting the state-by-state economic impact of agriculture and the importance of crop insurance.

In total, crop insurance protects more than 440 million acres of American farmland. Each of these acres represent a farming family: some are continuing a long legacy of agriculture, while others are the first generation to farm. Each farm is an integral part of our nation’s food supply and our economy.

We’re proud that crop insurance keeps America growing.

Visit CropInsuranceInMyState.org to download a fact sheet for your state

A Safety Net for our Food Supply and the Farm Economy

Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the American farm safety net. It protects the farmers who grow our food and fiber as well as the rural communities that rely on a thriving farm economy.

Mike Chappell bought his first tractor when he was still in college. Now, he farms in McCrory, Arkansas, and takes pride in growing the crops that feed America.

“I feel like that we bring a good product for people. It feels good to know that, you know, people are consuming our product and we’re working hard,” Mike said. “It’s a lot involved. And I’m just one little spoke in the wheel.”

Farming comes with many challenges, and Mike has experienced some big storms, big floods and big freezes that have become family legend. Each time, he’s turned to crop insurance to keep him growing.

“Crop insurance kind of takes a few bumps out of the road,” he said. “It’s not going to make you prosperous, but it might keep you alive.”

Learn more about the people behind the policies.

Agriculture provides jobs for tens of thousands of people in Arkansas and supports the small businesses that rely on this income. Matthew Marsh in England, Arkansas, grew up farming and understands the immense responsibility of taking care of his employees.

Yet, increasingly severe weather is making it harder for farmers like Matthew. That’s where crop insurance comes in.

“If Mother Nature throws us just a big curveball, we may have something, some way to stay in business and keep our community and all our employees going forward to another year,” Matthew explained.

Just across the mighty Mississippi, agriculture anchors the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Mississippi Blues Trail winds through Clarksdale, too, and the intersection of farming and folk music give farmer Scott Flowers hope that this community will survive through tough times.

Scott farms cotton, soybeans, corn, and wheat with his brother. When we spoke with him in mid-April, they hadn’t been able to get into the fields to plant nearly half their acres due to the rain. When weather is unpredictable, crop insurance provides a predictable safety net.

Weather isn’t the only risk. Input costs, such as the cost for fertilizer, fuel, and animal feed, are also rising and squeezing already thin farm profits.

“We couldn’t make it without crop insurance,” Scott said. “I mean, we put so much money into the crop that we can’t afford to miss a crop. Or not to have a safety net if we do.”

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

Crop Insurance Keeps Family Farms Alive

Jim Carroll, a fourth-generation farmer in Brinkley, Arkansas, is no stranger to the “bad times” that come with farming. Some years, it feels like he’s just trying to survive.

That’s why Jim invests in crop insurance. “We use crop insurance for the fact that if something bad happens, we don’t want to lose our livelihood, not being smart enough to take a little crop insurance out,” he explained in a new video.

Crop insurance helps Jim manage his risks and protect the farm in the hopes that one day, his grandson will take over as the fifth generation. “My hope is he’ll like this because there’s something unique about being able to put a seed in the ground and watch it come up and develop.”

National Crop Insurance Services is dedicated to sharing the stories of the people behind crop insurance policies. Each one is important, whether it’s the farmers who rely on crop insurance to keep growing after disaster or the agents and adjusters who are dedicated to preserving a strong agricultural economy.

Watch more Real Stories here.

Our most recent trip to the field took us to the rich farmland of Arkansas and Mississippi. Tim Ralston in Atkins, Arkansas, farms rice, soybeans, and corn while raising cattle. The jasmine rice he grows is so fragrant, he said “you can actually smell it when you pull into the field.”

Tim recalled a 500-year flood that threatened his farm and damaged his rice. His crop insurance policy quickly delivered aid to help cover his losses.

“Crop insurance kind of provides a safety net to where you know what the minimum return is going to be. And if you can live with that minimum return and then, you know, you can survive and go forward,” Tim said.

“With [crop insurance], you know it was devastating as it was, but without it, it would have been catastrophic.”

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

Heard from the Field: Michigan Farmers Share Insights with Senate

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its first field hearing in preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) traveled to Sen. Stabenow’s home state of Michigan to hear from local farmers and other key stakeholders about the farm policies that are key to keeping their farms running and their local communities fed. It is no surprise that crop insurance was a common topic in several of these testimonies.

That’s because farmers are facing many risks, especially as climate-driven loss events increase. Juliette King McAvoy, who grows tart cherries and other specialty crops at King Orchards in Northern Michigan, said that crop insurance helps their family farm deal with the threats posed by volatile spring weather.

“Crop insurance absolutely helps us manage risk,” McAvoy said. “We’ve had increased frequency of crop loss and I cannot imagine trying to survive without it. There are not many business models that can withstand the kind of volatility that we are experiencing.”

McAvoy also said that crop insurance gives her the certainty and the confidence to continue her family’s long-term investment in their orchard. “The crop insurance plans do not make us whole (typical plans insure 60% of a crop), but they are so important to ensure that we can keep the orchards maintained and make it to another season,” she wrote in her submitted testimony.

Allyson Maxwell, co-owner of Peter Maxwell Farms, shared similar sentiments about the importance of a strong crop insurance program.

“The safety net provided by crop insurance is vital to maintaining the agriculture industry in this country, especially in the face of increasingly unpredictable disasters like drought, flood, and extreme weather,” Maxwell said. “It’s a really, really important risk tool that we have…and we’re really grateful for it and the fact that it is protected by our Farm Bill.”

She recalled watching her aunt and uncle almost lose their Missouri farm in the 1980s because they did not have crop insurance. Thankfully, their farm survived, and today, they also rely on crop insurance.

Jake Isley, a 6th generation farmer and soybean grower at Stewardship Farms, stressed to the committee that crop insurance must remain affordable in the 2023 Farm Bill.

“Our risk management program on which soybean farmers and our lenders rely on heavily is crop insurance. We must continue to have an affordable crop insurance program. With input costs higher in every area of my operation, I cannot afford to have the crop insurance premium subsidy reduced in this next Farm Bill,” Isley said.

We’re proud that crop insurance has earned the trust and confidence of Michigan farmers, as Sen. Stabenow noted as well.

“One of the things that came up over and over again is crop insurance, which is so critical, particularly in these times with weather getting worse and worse and worse,” Stabenow said. “Our farmers, they’re not asking for a handout. They want help to make sure there’s a backstop that helps them with their risk.”

The testimony from Michigan’s farmers has made it clear that Congress must continue to support a strong crop insurance program in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Risk Management Discussion Shines Spotlight on Crop Insurance

“I can honestly say I would not be sitting here if it was not for crop insurance,” wheat grower Nicole Berg recently told an audience in Washington, DC.

Last year, Berg turned to crop insurance when she was only able to harvest a third of her farm due to drought and arid conditions. Crop insurance provided a vital safety net.

Preserving and strengthening that safety net for all farm producers was a key topic at the annual Ag & Food Policy Summit, hosted by Agri-Pulse. Berg, who is President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, spoke on a panel that focused on managing risks and crop losses on the farm.

“All farmers want to do is stay in business another year,” she said.

The Ag & Food Policy Summit brought together policymakers, farm leaders, and commodity experts for policy discussions that will help shape the 2023 Farm Bill. Crop insurance is expected to remain farmers’ number one risk management tool.

“Our farmers say: crop insurance is a cornerstone of the Farm Bill. Don’t mess with it, just make it better,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Duvall noted that the Farm Bill should reflect the importance of farmers to our national security. That means protecting the farmers who maintain our abundant food supply. Unlike ad hoc disaster programs, which can sometimes take years to deliver assistance, arriving too late to save the family farm after disaster, crop insurance can provide timely assistance to farmers who face unforeseen challenges.

The strengths of crop insurance have made it the ideal risk management tool, said Tom Zacharias, President of National Crop Insurance Services.

  • Its public-private partnership increases efficiency and strengthens program integrity;
  • Its adaptability allows crop insurance to adjust for future risks;
  • Risks and costs are shared between taxpayers, insurers and the government, and;
  • Farmers receive help in just days or weeks, allowing them to count on the predictability of crop insurance to deliver assistance when they need it most.

America’s farmers overwhelmingly trust crop insurance to help them manage their risks. Today, crop insurance provides protection for more than 130 different commodities and covers farmers in all 50 states. Last year, crop insurance insured a record 462 million acres, providing $137 billion dollars in protection. That’s more than 90 percent of major crop insurable farmland in America.

Still, crop insurers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency are continually working together to improve crop insurance to better protect farmers. In the next Farm Bill, that will mean giving USDA the tools it needs to expand affordable coverage for specialty crop producers.

“Roughly $90 billion a year in specialty crops are planted in the United States, and about $19-20 billion of those specialty crops are covered by crop insurance. The delta is not small, but it has been closing, and that’s a positive,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council and a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

Quarles noted that there are more than 300 specialty crops, and each is grown differently, requiring USDA to analyze a significant amount of data. “It has an impact on how those products are priced, how they’re constructed. That’s an ongoing discussion as we look at this Farm Bill: how do we sit down with USDA and the industry, develop better data to make more affordable, useful products,” Quarles said.

As Congress considers next year’s Farm Bill, leaders encouraged farmers to speak out about how crop insurance gives farmers the certainty they need to keep farming.

Thank You, Farmers and Ranchers!

There is no greeting card or time-honored holiday tradition for National Agriculture Day, but it’s arguably one of the most important days of the year.

That’s because it’s a day to celebrate America’s farmers and ranchers and recognize their incredible contributions. After all, without farmers, we wouldn’t have food on our tables, clothes in our closets, or biofuels available at the pump.

There are approximately two million farms in America. That’s less than one percent of our nation working sunup to sundown (and sometimes all night long) to provide nearly 330 million Americans with an abundant and affordable supply of food, fiber and fuel.

While fewer and fewer people have a close connection to agriculture, our nation’s rich farming traditions live on in our farm families. In fact, about 98 percent of farms are family farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual America’s Diverse Family Farms report. These family farms are responsible for 87 percent of farm production.

At National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), we have spoken to family farmers across the country about the importance of protecting our farmers and ranchers. Farmers like Erica Wuthrich in Iowa. Erica grew up farming and is hoping to continue this legacy for generations to come.

“The majority of the families around here are farmers,” Erica told NCIS. “If we didn’t have the farming operations around here, it wouldn’t be good – it would be awful.”

As young farmers, Erica and her husband, Brent, rely on the stability provided by crop insurance to keep their farm growing, through good seasons – and bad. They’re not alone. Crop insurance is trusted by farmers to protect 460 million acres of farmland and more than $137 billion in food, fiber, and fuel.

So, as we share our gratitude for our farmers, it is equally important that we give them the tools that they need to succeed by maintaining a reliable farm safety net and a strong crop insurance program.

Happy National Agriculture Day!

What Farmers Are Telling Congress About Crop Insurance

Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee invited various commodity groups to testify before the committee on Title I programs in the Farm Bill. This hearing kicked off the committee’s examination of the Farm Bill programs that help provide stability to America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as they do the hard work of feeding, fueling, and clothing our nation.

While crop insurance was not the focus of this hearing, it was no surprise that the importance of the crop insurance program was reiterated time and time again. That’s because crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net and trusted by farmers to protect more than 90 percent of insurable farmland in America.

Commodity leaders from across the country, representing tens of thousands of farmers growing a diverse range of crops, praised the crop insurance program, speaking at times about their personal farming experience. In their own words, here’s what they had to say about crop insurance:

“ASA must share for the record the high importance of crop insurance to soybean farmers. Soybean farmers consistently communicate that this is the most effective component of the farm safety net when viewed more broadly… Crop insurance must remain affordable for producers.” – Brad Doyle, American Soybean Association

“Last year, I didn’t harvest a third of my farm. And so, I had to utilize the safety net of crop insurance, and it was there, and I’d have to say, it’s kept the family farm in business.” – Nicole Berg, National Association of Wheat Growers

“We know that agricultural markets are cyclical, and an effective safety net is imperative for the inevitable times of low prices. The combination of commodity program options and crop insurance gives farmers as well as their lenders the confidence entering planting season knowing that downside risk is mitigated in periods of steep price decline or a significant loss of production.” – Jaclyn Ford, National Cotton Council

“Crop insurance is #1. It is our #1 best risk-management tool, and we need to continue with that. It is a vital piece.” – Chris Edgington, National Corn Growers Association

“As we are seeing continuous erratic weather patterns – longer and more extreme droughts in some regions and more frequent flooding in other areas – the farm safety net and robust crop insurance program that helps farmers adequately mitigate risk and volatility becomes vital to the sustainability and continuation of family farms.” – Verity Ulibarri, National Sorghum Producers

“I hope that the stability and certainty of the farm safety net that the Title I and crop insurance programs represent will remain the top priority and driving force in the timely reauthorization of a bipartisan Farm Bill in 2023. Farmers, as well as consumers that rely on the food we produce, are facing a lot of challenges and uncertainty. Additional instability and uncertainty in the fam safety net and our food production system is the last thing we need.” –  Clark Coleman, National Sunflower Association, National Barley Growers Association, U.S. Canola Association, and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council

The message to Congress was loud and clear: to best serve America’s farmer and ranchers, crop insurance must be protected and strengthened in the next Farm Bill.

Growers, Lenders, Conservationists Call on Congress to Back Crop Insurance in Farm Bill

Crop insurance is a vital risk management tool that should be maintained and strengthened in the next Farm Bill, according to a panel of commodity growers, lenders, and conservationists.

The panel was part of the Monday presentations at the crop insurance industry’s annual conference in California.

“Crop insurance is one of our most important tools for our growers in terms of protecting their yields as well as their revenue,” said Jake Westlin of the National Association of Wheat Growers.

Wayne Stoskopf, of National Corn Growers Association, said crop insurance has been the cornerstone of the farm safety net for the majority of corn growers.

“It works really well,” he said. “I don’t expect that to change at all. They are continuing to innovate and look at things like the post application coverage endorsement (PACE) as something that our growers identified as a need for split nitrogen practices and wanted to continue to see advancements and innovations there.”

Robbie Minnich, of National Cotton Council, said crop insurance is very important to cotton growers.

“As you all well know almost every acre of cotton gets some level of crop insurance,” he said. “So, we want to make sure crop insurance is there, it’s available, it’s affordable and we can do whatever we can do to support the industry.”

Ben Mosely, of USA Rice Federation, said innovations in crop insurance are making it more attractive to rice growers.

“Obviously there’s a lot of new crop insurance policies and endorsements that have come on in the last 10 plus years that are very attractive to us,” he said. “We are taking on more crop insurance acreage every year. It’s been a great program.”

Skylar Sowder, of Farm Credit Council, said crop insurance is hugely important to lenders.

“It is a vital risk management tool,” she said. “Additionally, a lot of our farm credit associations also provide crop insurance as a service to their customers.”

Kellis Moss, of Ducks Unlimited, said his group is a proud to partner with the crop insurance industry.

“We’d like to see as many acres in production have crop insurance on their farms as possible,” he said. “And we couldn’t be prouder of our partnership, or relationship. We think it’s great. It’s continuing in a good direction.”

Crop Insurance Continues to Earn the Trust of America’s Farmers and Ranchers

As agriculture faces new challenges and a changing climate, crop insurance remains the number one risk management tool for America’s farmers and ranchers, according to the chair of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS). Last year, crop insurance protected a record 460 million acres of farmland and more than $137 billion in food, fiber, and fuel.

Kendall Jones, chair of NCIS and president and CEO of ProAg, made her remarks at the start of the industry’s annual meeting in California.

“The scale and size of crop insurance further demonstrate that farmers have come to rely upon our industry when the going gets tough,” she said. “We need to build on that credibility as the environment farmers operate in continues to evolve. We are in position to continue to modernize and improve – adapting risk management tools to the risk.”

Farmers invested $5 billion dollars of their own money through premiums in 2021 to protect their crops. Jones said the increasing popularity of crop insurance should come as no surprise.

“The crop insurance industry has established credibility with farmers and policymakers. It all starts with trust,” she said. “The American farmers and ranchers rely on the crop insurance industry to be there when they need us as they set up their operating loans, in times of natural weather disasters or during financial distress from market pressure.”

Among the most highly discussed topics of the conference was how the industry is improving to meet the changing needs of agriculture. Jones praised the data-driven nature of crop insurance, explaining that it has made crop insurance uniquely adept at helping America’s farmers respond to climate change.

“As farmers deal with new challenges, it is important to maintain the integrity and credibility of the Federal crop insurance program, but we need to acknowledge it will not stay the same,” she said.

Jones pointed to the work that the crop insurance industry has done alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture to facilitate the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture and champion more diversity and equity within agriculture.

She set the stage for the upcoming Farm Bill debate by noting the large percentages of new members in both the Senate and House agriculture committees along with changes in leadership in both committees.

Recently, a diverse coalition representing 55 farming, banking, and conservation organizations called on government officials to oppose cuts to crop insurance in the Farm Bill. The coalition delivered letters to the House and Senate budget and appropriations committees, as well as to the Secretary of Agriculture and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, emphasizing the importance of crop insurance as a risk management tool.

“There are always new ideas from new voices to be heard in the Farm Bill discussion,” she said. “How we share our collective story and listen to their perspectives will help influence the process.”

The Three “C’s”: Crop Insurance, Climate, and Conservation

Over the past several years, farmers have dealt with immense climate and weather-related challenges. America’s farmers have survived droughts, hurricanes, derechos, floods, fires and a global pandemic. Through it all, farmers have kept farming. One constant throughout these past several years has been the availability of Federal crop insurance.

Recently, the Crop Insurance Coalition, a group representing farmers, lenders, agricultural input providers and conservation groups, sent letters to the Biden Administration and other congressional leaders asking them not to propose cuts to crop insurance in the upcoming FY2023 budget.

“Crop insurance [is] a farmer’s first line of defense against climate change and other disasters. As the challenges for America’s farmers and ranchers continue to grow, we believe crop insurance as a safety net is only becoming more important to stability in rural America…It is no accident that the most recent farm bills emphasized risk management, and in doing so, protected the interests of American taxpayers.”

Those familiar with the development of Federal crop insurance will recall that 1995 was the first year of implementation of the Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994. The 1994 Act was in response to the extreme flooding and excessive moisture conditions occurring in the Midwest. Since the inception of the Act, acres insured have essentially doubled while coverage has increased more than five times.

Crop insurance is available nation-wide, and protection is provided for all eligible farmers. Accordingly, crop insurance has provided support to farmers that experienced losses due to a variety of adverse events across the country. Prominent examples since the 1993 flooding include:

  1. 2011 extreme drought in the Southern Plains coupled with flooding along the Missouri River
  2. 2012 drought
  3. 2019 excessive moisture conditions resulting in farmer prevented planting losses
  4. 2020 Midwest derecho
  5. Hurricane losses in the Southeast in 2020
  6. Drought in the Northern Plains in 2021

It is important to point out that as farmers with crop insurance have been financially protected from these weather events, the crop insurance program has operated well within its statutorily required actuarial soundness mandate. Since 1995, crop insurance premiums have exceeded indemnities.

Crop insurance’s mission is about more than the number of catastrophic weather events and dollars going out the door. It’s personal. Family farmers depend on crop insurance to maintain their way of life and support the local agricultural economy. For many rural towns, a healthy and resilient agricultural economy is also vital to their economic success.

Critics of the Federal crop insurance program have stated that the program does not encourage or require farmers to adapt to climate change. Such criticism ignores the evolution of the program to accommodate the integration of conservation programs and farmer initiatives to incorporate climate smart farming practices.

The guidelines for program participation, based on good farming practices, have evolved over time. Since 2014, farmers have been required to report their conservation plans in order to be eligible for crop insurance. In the 2018 Farm Bill, the use of cover crops was incorporated into the portfolio of good farming practices.

In a study published in 2020 in the Journal of Environmental Management, the authors report that crop insurance and conservation practices serve unique roles and are used simultaneously. Further, they report that the crop insurance program is not a barrier to the adoption of conservation practices such as cover crops and conservation tillage among Midwest farmers.

According to the study, “…results suggest that resiliency for Midwest operations includes both crop insurance and conservation practices. Neither behavior was found to inhibit the other. On the contrary, corn producers experienced complimentary outcomes from a combined approach that was greater than participation in either behavior by itself.

To state that the modern-day crop insurance program does not support farmers’ efforts to adapt to climate change or reduce greenhouse gas emissions is simply not true.

The Federal crop insurance program has demonstrated the flexibility to accommodate change. These changes have been, and will continue to be, science based, data driven, and provide incentives for voluntary participation by farmers.

Soybean Leadership Gives Crop Insurance High Marks

Farmers are counting on Congress to maintain risk management as a top priority in the new Farm Bill, the American Soybean Association’s president, Brad Doyle, said recently on Agri-Pulse’s Open Mic.

Congress could begin debate on the 2023 Farm Bill as early as this month. Doyle’s association represents 500,000 U.S. soy farmers on domestic and international policy issues and is surveying members this winter on farm bill topics. It plans to share with Congress a list of priorities.

“Risk management, I believe, if you look at crop insurance, is used on about 90 percent of the soybean acres in the United States. That would be devastating to take that tool away. It is a great program. It gives us financial security when disaster happens, such as a tornado or a large weather event or flooding even. So, we are going to stand by the risk management tools that we have, such as crop insurance.”

In addition to his remarks on risk management and crop insurance, Doyle spoke about the inability to find adequate inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides and how that could impact growers in 2022. He also mentioned that trade, rising inflation and labor shortages continue to be concerns for farmers across the country. You can listen to Doyle’s interview on Agri-Pulse’s Open Mic here.

Crop insurance stands ready to help farmers and ranchers during these challenging times. We thank the American Soybean Association for its support of proven risk management tools like crop insurance.

Crop Insurance Basics: Historic Drought Loss

It has been an exceptionally difficult crop year for many of America’s farmers and ranchers as drought conditions in the West and northern Plains have distressed crops and grazing lands. Approximately 210 million acres of crops are experiencing some level of drought conditions.

Millions of farmers trust crop insurance to help manage their risks, including drought, and farmers have already spoken out about the importance of the farm safety net and crop insurance during years like these.

“Many of our risk management programs, like crop insurance, will be vitally important this year for those producers,” National Association of Wheat Growers Executive Director Chandler Goule said after touring drought-stricken wheat fields in the Dakotas and Minnesota. “Most of the producers we’ve talked to…I’m not going to say they were optimistic but very thankful they had crop insurance programs.”

While the full extent of drought damage is yet to be revealed, crop insurers are already engaged with farmers and ranchers on the ground to help them navigate this historic drought. Currently, more than 90 percent of America’s row crop farmland is protected by crop insurance, and we stand at the ready to keep America growing – no matter the size or scope of the disaster.

So, how does crop insurance respond to a historic drought? We don’t need to look very far back in the history books to find the answer.

In 2012, drought gripped America’s heartland, leaving most of the country reeling from at least some level of drought. It was one of the worst disasters to hit American agriculture in decades.

“Going out in the fields… is a thoroughly depressing experience,” Illinois farmer David Andris told National Crop Insurance Services at the time. “If we didn’t have crop insurance…this year might be the end of it for me.”

The decrease in corn production per acre in 2012 was the largest caused by a drought since 1988.

Farmer Robert Geddes emphasized the importance of having crop insurance during 2012 for the “nasty years like this.” Growers in his area had invested a lot into growing the best crop possible, only to see it lost to drought. If farmers didn’t have the safety net provided by crop insurance, “they’d truly be hurting.”

Thankfully, crop insurance performed extremely well. It quickly and efficiently delivered aid to rural America – exactly as Congress designed.

The public-private partnership of crop insurance meant that farmers weren’t left waiting for years for some form of ad-hoc disaster assistance. Private-sector insurance adjusters quickly assessed damage in the field and crop insurance companies worked swiftly to finalize more than one million claims. This gave farmers the certainty to plan for the next planting season.

Not only did crop insurance help farmers and ranchers weather the drought of 2012, ensuring the security of our food and fiber supply, but crop insurance had a positive impact throughout the rural economy.

An economic study commissioned by Farm Credit Services of America found that in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming alone, crop insurance indemnities from the 2012 drought generated enough off-farm income to save 20,900 non-farming jobs.

Our thoughts are with the farmers and ranchers who are currently dealing with this devastating drought. But history shows us that we will face this challenge together – just as we have before.

Farmers Emphasize to Congress Importance of Crop Insurance

Farmers from across the country testified last week before a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing examining the efficacy of the farm safety net.

While each grower had a unique story to share, a common thread quickly became clear: America’s farmers depend on the Federal crop insurance program.

Read in their own words what crop insurance means to America’s farmers:

“Crop insurance is a vital tool for farmers, and Congress must not do anything to undermine it.” – Wes Shannon, peanut and cotton farmer in Georgia

“Crop insurance is a cornerstone of my operation. Our ability to market our grain, manage our risks and financially survive depends on crop insurance. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are invested in a growing crop that can be wiped out in one weather event. And there are broader impacts on the ag economy. Considering what farmers spend on ag inputs, machinery, equipment, and crop protection, we must be successful for everyone else. That’s why crop insurance is so critical for our entire industry.” – Jeff Kirwan, corn and soybean farmer in Illinois

“Federal crop insurance is an absolute mainstay to rural Minnesota and farm families like mine. If Washington does anything on farm policy, it should first do no harm to crop insurance.” – Rob Tate, farmer, crop insurance agent, and crop revenue consultant in Minnesota

“I view the Federal crop insurance program to be a fundamental element of the safety net that secures the survival of domestic food production, which I consider to be of critical national importance for all Americans.” – Brian Talley, specialty crop farmer in California

These testimonies reflect the key role that crop insurance plays in the farm safety net. More than 1.1 million Federal crop insurance policies provide more than $100 billion in coverage across more than 380 million acres of farmland in all 50 states. It’s available to farmers of all sizes and more than 130 commodities.

Throughout the hearing, the growers shared their personal experiences with crop insurance and outlined the strengths of the Federal crop insurance program.

Unlike ad hoc disaster bills, which can take years before help arrives, crop insurance delivers assistance for covered losses in just days or weeks. That’s because crop insurance is built on a unique private-public partnership that draws on the efficiency of the private sector to quickly assess damages and determine losses when Mother Nature strikes.

The crop insurance program also gives farmers predictable tools to manage their unique risks. Farmers invest in crop insurance before a disaster – sharing in the risk – and they know how the rules of their policy will help them recover.

Rob Tate also testified that as an agent, he’s seen how important crop insurance is not only for established farmers, but also beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers who need to secure credit and manage their risks.

It’s no wonder that when everything is on the line, America’s farmers turn to crop insurance. Congress must continue to strengthen the crop insurance program and preserve this vital part of the farm safety net.

Crop Insurance Basics: Available to All

In the everyday insurance world, coverage may sometimes be hard to come by.

That can be true if you’ve had a disaster – such as a fire in your home – or live in an area at high risk for disaster. Car insurance coverage may be more expensive or even denied if you are a very young or very old driver, even if you’ve never had to file a claim.

Crop insurance is different.

Under the crop insurance system that has become the centerpiece of America’s farm policy, private-sector insurance providers must offer insurance to growers who are eligible for coverage and want it – regardless of a farm’s size, location, or cropping choice.

Additionally, crop insurers don’t have control over premium setting. A farmers’ rates are calculated and published by the USDA and, unlike other lines of insurance coverage, prices will not fluctuate between insurance providers.

Crop insurers compete on customer service, not price. And they cannot choose to simply do business with well-established farmers from areas that have a history of lower risk crops.

In fact, the crop insurance system must always look for ways to cover more and more farmers. Such inclusivity is a shared responsibility of the public and private sectors, which have partnered to bring additional public and privately augmented insurance options to the marketplace and keep pace with a constantly evolving agricultural sector.

While crop insurance was originally only available to major crops – such as corn, cotton, and wheat – it now offers coverage on 130 different crops, including most fruits and vegetables. Today, more than 1 million insurance policies provide $100 billion in protection to nearly 400 million acres – including about 90 percent of U.S. crop acreage.

And more policies and options are regularly being added through the USDA’s program to encourage new product development, where insurers work along-side farm leaders and researchers to create new and unique policies for everything from alfalfa seed to all-encompassing whole farm revenue protection.

Furthermore, this partnership teams up to deliver in-depth training services across the country for small and socially disadvantaged farmers to strengthen and broaden their familiarity with the inner workings of business planning and risk management strategies.

It’s a system that has married the best of the private sector with the best of government, and the result has been the most effective, popular farm safety net in the history of agriculture.

Crop Insurance Basics: Good Farming Practices

Suppose you’re a homeowner who intentionally neglects your property, refusing to make basic repairs and even creating unsafe conditions like exposed wires or leaky pipes. Now suppose your house, not surprisingly, is damaged from a resulting fire or flood.

Are you entitled to a full homeowner’s insurance payout?

Of course not. A homeowner’s policy has exclusions and conditions to ensure the homeowner acts responsibly and is not neglectful. Otherwise, fraud could become more commonplace and responsible homeowners would wind up paying more in premiums to offset others’ losses.

Crop insurance is no different and requires responsible stewardship. A farmer who starves a crop of nutrients and water, plants late, or farms in a manner that jeopardizes the insured property would be ineligible for indemnities when the crop fails.

Fortunately, America’s farmers are the most efficient and productive in the world. They are honest and determined to take care of the land that takes care of them. And they do the job right.

Doing the job right in agriculture is officially known as Good Farming Practices, which are defined by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency and required as a condition of insurance.

Good Farming Practices, or GFPs, are constantly evolving to keep pace with new technologies and changes in the market, weather, and land management. These practices are rooted in science and data and are based on regional research. In other words, GFPs must be proven to work.

GFPs are the production methods that farmers follow to cultivate a crop and allow it to make normal progress to maturity, ranging from the timing of planting and harvest to using the best crop rotations, crop inputs, and farming techniques in the area.

Farmers follow GFPs when they choose the right variety of seeds to grow a good crop with high yield potential and a good market price. GFPs also include properly preparing the field, irrigating, fertilizing, and weeding during the growth period. Finally, GFPs mean collecting the mature crop from the field with harvesting methods that maximize output and minimize damage.

GFPs help ensure that production methods do not adversely affect the quantity or quality of production, and to keep up with the latest science and technology, they continually are monitored and improved. Local researchers, agronomists, and USDA extension agents are the keys to helping farmers keep pace with the latest and greatest in their area.

The GFP known as no-till is a great example.

The technique – which leaves crop residue in the field after harvest and a new crop planted using a drill or planter instead of first tilling the ground – is used on more than 65 million acres of farmland today. But it was rarely used until the late 1980s because farmers had long believed that tilling improved yields.

As more and more research showed the production and environmental benefits of no-till, including carbon sequestration and soil health, farmers were encouraged to change the way they farmed.

No-till is just one example. Other environmentally beneficial GFPs that have been adopted by agriculture and embraced by crop insurance in recent years include recognition of new drought-resistant seed varieties, more efficient irrigation systems, buffer strips, cover crops, and precision agricultural technology and equipment.

The flexibility within the insurance system helps expand the list of GFPs as farmers look to new proven technologies and techniques to tackle climate change, improve conservation practices, land management, soil health, water conservation, and any challenge tomorrow brings.

Idaho Farmer: Crop Insurance Helps Farmers Feed America

Located in the southeastern corner of Idaho and situated in a high desert environment more than 5,000 feet above sea level, the town of Rockland can be a difficult location to farm. Extreme weather has the potential to quickly devastate crops.

Fifth generation Idaho farmer Jamie Kress understands these challenges and that’s why Jamie and her husband, Cordell, purchase crop insurance to help mitigate weather and markets risks on their family farm.

Jamie recently penned an op-ed for her local paper sharing her first-hand experiences with crop insurance.

“It’s really frustrating when all of your blood, sweat and tears is out there on the line and Mother Nature is calling the shots at that point,” she wrote.

“Crop insurance is one of those things that lets you sleep a little bit better at night because it protects you from the risks of Mother Nature. It means if you have a crop failure, or you have a yield that is not what it could have been, you won’t be out of business.”

Jamie went to school for accounting and Cordell is an engineer. Their backgrounds help them make data-driven decisions about what works best for their farming operation. That’s why Jamie and Cordell trust crop insurance.

“The protection crop insurance products offer today help farmers manage weather risks, and the markets, so they can stay in business and grow the essential food, fiber and fuel products that are critical to our nation’s safety and security,” Jamie explained.

“Crop insurance is extremely popular with farmers because it is very reliable,” she added.

Jamie has worked to share her family’s farming story with Congress.

“I’ve spent some time in Washington talking to our lawmakers about farming. I always try to help them understand that farming is not just a job – it’s a passion, it’s a lifestyle,” she writes. “For farm families, it is our world.”

And with so much on the line – including our nation’s food supply – Jamie is asking Congress to continue its robust support of the Federal crop insurance program.

“We are grateful that Congress maintained our strong system of crop insurance in the 2018 Farm Bill. As the new leaders take office in Washington, we hope they will keep crop insurance affordable and widely available.”

Crop insurance plays an indispensable role in supporting America’s farmers and ranchers as they invest in sustainable agriculture and grow the food and fiber products we all depend on. Congress must continue to protect crop insurance so that farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to succeed.

Through Tough Years and Unexpected Hardships, Crop Insurance Helps Farmers Stay in Business

Just along the Texas-New Mexico border lies the small town of Texline. This west Texas community is where Valerie and Michael Diller raised their family while growing corn, wheat, hay and caring for sheep.

Farming isn’t easy, and the Diller family has experienced their fair share of heartbreak. They credit crop insurance with helping their farm weather disaster in an opinion piece recently published in the Amarillo Globe-News.

“For those tough years and unexpected hardships, I am thankful that Congress has supported a strong federal crop insurance program to help get us through,” Michael wrote.

When Valerie and Michael were beginning farmers, a storm badly damaged their wheat and corn crop. The safety net provided by crop insurance saved their farm and allowed them to once again plant the following year. After their firsthand experience with crop insurance, the Dillers became advocates for this critical risk management tool, even selling crop insurance themselves.

Michael wrote in the Amarillo Globe-News:

There is no better way to insure your crop than through the public-private partnership of crop insurance. The protection crop insurance products offer today help farmers manage the risks of Mother Nature and the markets so they can stay in business and grow the essential food, fiber and fuel products that are critical to our nation’s safety and security.

And this year has come with no shortage of obstacles for America’s farmers and ranchers.

…while farming always comes with risks, this year has presented some unique challenges. It’s been a rollercoaster ride on the market this year during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Corn is at about the lowest price in memory.

Farmers in the west Texas panhandle are really scared about whether they are going to be able to make it next year. The tremendous rise in prices at the grocery store is not reflected at the farm level. These are issues that not only harm the farmers who are trying to make a living, but all of the small businesses and other jobs that farming supports in our community.

That’s why farmers like Valerie and Michael have made their message to Capitol Hill clear: we must maintain a strong and widely available system of crop insurance.

Crop insurance kept the Diller family in business. And crop insurance agents and adjusters are proud to work every day to give a helping hand to farming families across the country.

As Michael concluded, “Now more than ever [crop insurance] is needed to help farmers produce a reliable, high-quality and affordable food supply for our nation.”

North Carolina Apple Grower Says Crop Insurance Key to Food Security

Kenny Barnwell is a fifth-generation apple grower in the mountains of North Carolina. His family farm covers approximately 150 acres and is home to 26 different varieties of apples.

This year has been tough for apple growers in North Carolina, much like farmers across the country. Apple growers have faced weather-related damages to their crop and fear revenue losses due to the COVID-19 threat and a decline in agri-tourism.

Despite the uncertainty, Barnwell takes comfort in knowing that he can rely on crop insurance.

He recently shared the importance of maintaining a strong crop insurance program in a column he wrote in his local paper, the Hendersonville Lightning:

The fact that I have a safety net under me with crop insurance helps me sleep at night, especially this season. I worked as a crop insurance adjuster for about 10 years, so I know just how well this public-private partnership works.

Crop insurance uses the efficiency of the private sector to quickly get relief to farmers so they can stay in business and continue producing the food, fiber and fuel that now, more than ever, are critical parts of our collective safety and security.

Crop insurance covers 3.5 million acres in North Carolina and provides $1.7 billion in protection. And as Barnwell notes in his piece, farmers have a role to play in their own protection by investing in crop insurance policies.

“The government keeps crop insurance affordable and widely available but it’s not free,” Barnwell wrote. “Farmers bought 1.1 million crop insurance policies last year, collectively paying $3.75 billion in premiums and shouldering more than $10 billion in deductibles.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s farmers and ranchers have continued their essential work, feeding our nation. Crop insurance has been by their side every step of the way. Barnwell noted the importance of protecting a steady food supply:

As our nation recovers from the pandemic, and consumers learn more about where their food comes from, I encourage lawmakers to maintain a strong system of crop insurance to help ensure the safety and security of our nation.

Every American can sleep a little bit sounder knowing that crop insurance helps our farmers and ranchers feed our nation, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

Texas Family Says Crop Insurance Saved Their Farm

Valerie Diller met her husband Michael while they were students at West Texas State University.

They decided to return to his hometown of Texline, start a farm and raise a family.

About two years after they started farming, a terrible hailstorm destroyed all of their wheat and badly damaged the corn crop.

Fortunately, they had crop insurance. Without it, the Dillers say in a new video, they would have been out of business

That storm was pivotal for their farm and their lives. They started selling crop insurance after the storm because they saw just how important it was during a disastrous time.

“Truly, we wouldn’t be here today without it,” Valerie Diller says. “We would not be able to live where we live and do what we do. I decided at that point if there was a way to help people, if we could, I wanted to do that.”

Today they grow corn, wheat, hay and raise sheep. Their children decided to come back to farm. Their son is farming with them and their daughter is involved in the sheep business.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride on the market this year for the Dillers, and farmers across America, during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Corn is at about the lowest price in memory.

Farmers in the west Texas panhandle are scared about whether they are going to be able to make it next year, the Dillers say. The tremendous rise in prices at the grocery store is not reflected at the farm level. They want Congress to know crop insurance is more important than ever.

“When I talk to a guy about federal crop insurance, I tell them there is no better way, no cheaper way, to insure your crop than through federal crop insurance,” Valerie Diller says. “You can’t farm without it.”

Watch the Dillers’ story at CropInsuranceinAmerica.org.

Thank a Farmer This Labor Day

Labor Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of the millions of men and women who keep America running.

This year, don’t forget to thank a farmer.

Approximately 2.6 million Americans work directly on a farm. Nearly 20 million more work in food and other agricultural-related industries.

Farming and ranching are certainly not your average 9 to 5 job. It’s sunup to sundown and sometimes all night long. Farming is a lifetime of commitment to caring for animals or producing a sustainable crop. It’s boots-on-the-ground work that requires equal measures of grit and grace and a little bit of good luck.

Despite the immense challenges that they have been presented with this year, America’s farmers and ranchers have continued to work every day in order to provide America with the most affordable, abundant and safest food supply in the world.

American agriculture keeps our grocery store shelves stocked, even in the midst of crisis, and supports our rural economies. That’s why we’ve made it our work to support America’s farmers and ranchers.

Crop insurance policies protect 380 million acres of land, or more than 90 percent of insurable farmland. Crop insurance is there when disaster strikes to quickly lend a helping hand and ensure that farmers can plant again another year.

We’re proud that America’s farmers invest their own money into sustainable risk management tools by purchasing crop insurance. And we are grateful for the continued bipartisan support from Congress for a strong Federal crop insurance program.

We will always work to ensure crop insurance remains affordable, widely available and economically viable. It’s a critical component of the farm safety net that protects our farmers and ranchers as they do what they do best: work hard to feed the world.

As you head into the holiday weekend, give a moment of appreciation for our farmers and ranchers. We certainly will.

Texas Farmer Hopes for Rain, Counts on Crop Insurance

Rain in West Texas can be scarce. So scarce, in fact, that farmer Brett Schniers wrote in a recent op-ed for the San Angelo Standard-Times that “when you lay down at night, you pray for rain because you don’t know when you’ll see it again.”

Despite the incredible promise of 2020, it has been a tough year for farming and ranching families across the country.

The Schniers family has already faced blistering drought, softball-sized hail that leveled their corn crop and plummeting prices due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This year, we’ve needed all the help we can get,” Schniers wrote. “That’s why I’m grateful Congress, through the Farm Bill, helps make crop insurance affordable and widely available.”

Farmers and ranchers are resilient. Even in years like 2020, where it seems yet another disaster is always just around the corner. But while he hopes for rain, Schniers knows he can count on crop insurance:

We prepared at the start of the pandemic because we knew, as farmers, we couldn’t stop working. We had to be ready to produce as much food and fiber as we could, even with Mother Nature’s threats and an uncertain market looming.

I’m proud of the work American farmers do every day to make sure our nation is not reliant on imported commodities.

I’m also proud that our leaders in Washington are backing a strong farm safety net with tools like crop insurance.

Crop insurance is a big part of the reason farmers are able to go to work every season despite storms and droughts and faltering commodity markets.

We are proud to provide a critical risk management tool. Crop insurance helps America’s farmers and ranchers produce the affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber necessary to keep our nation moving forward.

Congress continues to support crop insurance as a cornerstone of the farm safety net and farmers invest their own money in crop insurance to protect more than 90 percent of insurable farmland.

Schniers credits crop insurance with keeping him in business this year, writing, “The American farmer is the backbone of this country. And crop insurance is the backbone of the American farmer. It’s what we stand on.”

We could not agree more. We’re proud to stand side-by-side with America’s farmers and ranchers.

Read Schniers’ full op-ed on the importance of crop insurance at the San Angelo Standard-Times.

Wheat Growers Count on Crop Insurance

This year, America’s farmers and ranchers have faced one challenge after another. For wheat farmers in the west and Midwest, their crop is now threatened by severe drought conditions that could contribute to yield reductions or total crop loss.

Thankfully, more than 90 percent of insurable planted acres are protected by crop insurance, including many of America’s more than 47 million acres of wheat.

Without crop insurance, “producers in these drought-stricken areas could lose their crops without any risk protection, which could drive those farming operations out of business,” wrote Dave Milligan, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, in a recent op-ed for the High Plains Journal.

One wheat farmer in Kansas reported less than one and a half inches of rain in the last year. Others worry about the increased threat from wildfires.

Milligan is a Michigan wheat farmer himself and very familiar with the inherent dangers of farming and the nature of disasters like drought. He wrote that producers need to have reliable access to crop insurance to effectively manage their risks.

Farming is a risky business, and crop insurance is one of the most important policy tools that is relied on to mitigate risk…

As a crucial component for protecting producers and the feasibility of farming, crop insurance provides a risk management tool for unpredictable weather and assists producers in qualifying for the necessary operating loans to produce a crop. With this in consideration, any cuts or reduced access to crop insurance programs could be detrimental to farmers who rely on it to stay in business when disaster strikes.

Crop insurance has been so successful because it relies on a unique partnership between the federal government and the private crop insurance industry. This allows crop insurance to utilize private-sector efficiency to process claims and deliver payments quickly.

As Milligan makes a point of noting, farmers invest their own money into crop insurance:

Crop insurance is such an important policy tool for farmers that they invest their own money to purchase this protection. Farmers spend $3.5 to $4 billion per year to purchase crop insurance and bearing a significant portion of losses through deductibles. The federal government spends less than a quarter of 1% of its budget on farm safety net programs, making this a worthwhile investment to protect the world’s most affordable and safe food supply. Adequate funding of crop insurance should be a high priority for policymakers as agriculture is being hit with low prices, the effects of COVID-19, and other unpredictable disasters.

Milligan also cites the critical role that crop insurance plays in supporting the rural economies that depend on the income generated by farmers and ranchers. Because if America’s farms fail, their communities will be likely to crumble.

We hope that America’s wheat growers experiencing drought will soon see the rain they need. But no matter the storm – or the drought – crop insurance is here for America’s farmers and ranchers.

Maryland Farmer Thankful for Crop Insurance During Uncertain Year

In farming, the future is never certain. It requires trust that a planted seed will sprout and then flourish and hope that weather or market conditions will not upend that year’s crop.

One thing America’s farmers and ranchers did not predict this year: a global health care crisis.

Brooks Clayville grows row crops on his family farm located on the eastern shore of Maryland. Clayville recently authored an op-ed for The Dispatch sharing that, like many farmers, he began 2020 with high hopes before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

“Corn and soybean prices, for the first time in a long time, were expected to improve with the resolution to the ongoing trade wars that have hit rural communities hard,” Clayville wrote. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically interrupted our economy and our food supply chain.”

Every year, Clayville writes, he purchases crop insurance to help protect his crops and ensure that his family farm can survive any challenges that may arise. Including the current pandemic.

Now, more than ever, Clayville believes that crop insurance is an important tool:

Although rural America faces mounting uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mother Nature certainly won’t give anyone a pass this year. Farmers in Maryland and all across America need to maintain the tools that allow them to protect their farms and keep supply chains moving.

The best tool out there for mitigating the risks of weather and prices is the public-private partnership of crop insurance…

Farming is an expensive and risky business. Farmers have to buy all of the inputs that go into growing a successful crop before they know what the final harvest prices will be and without knowing whether a big storm is going to ruin all of their hard work or whether a pandemic will create new challenges that we didn’t plan for this planting season.

And Clayville is concerned not only about the farmers growing our crops, but the rural economies and small-town jobs that are supported by agriculture:

I think about the banks and equipment dealers, hardware stores and grocery stores in my town. If farmers weren’t spending money on Main Street, we’d have no town keeping our rural economies alive and grocery stores stocked is critically important.

The bottom line: farmers require the strong farm safety net provided by crop insurance to provide certainty as they navigate an uncertain world and continue their essential work of feeding and fueling America.

Crop Insurance Protects Essential Food and Fiber Supply

Steve Ward talks to as many lawmakers as he can about farming. Specifically, growing cranberries.

Ward grew up helping his dad on the family farm in Massachusetts, building cranberry bogs and digging ditches. Now, he farms that land with his son.

But growing cranberries is extremely labor intensive and carries a large amount of risk, not the least of which is the constant threat from Mother Nature.

Ward recently wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper, the Taunton Gazette, emphasizing the critical role that crop insurance plays in protecting America’s farmers:

At every step in this process, Mother Nature can destroy the crop.

Too much water can erode a bog. Not enough water can stress the plant. Hail can destroy berries and flowers in minutes. Fire worms can chew through a bog and leave what looks like ashes in their wake.

You can be left with no crops, no income to cover all the input costs and no money to grow again next season.

That’s why the strong farm safety net of crop insurance helps me sleep at night. I would not be in business without crop insurance.

The public-private partnership of crop insurance means farmers get financial help fast after a disaster. It allows them to stay in business and continue to produce the food, fiber and fuel that are essential to our nation’s safety and security.

Crop insurance saved me. I would not be in business without it.

Our farmers and ranchers have continued to work day-in and day-out throughout this pandemic to provide Americans with a safe and affordable food supply. Let’s ensure we continue to provide the protection they need by supporting a strong crop insurance program.

America’s Farmers Remain Open to Feed America

Chip and Karla Bailey own KC Bailey Orchards in Williamson, New York, where they grow apples. They’re proud to help provide for their neighbors as well as customers across America, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The past few months have resulted in some dramatic changes in our daily lives, but for America’s farmers, like the Baileys, there are still crops to be planted, fields to be fertilized and apple trees to be pruned.

The Baileys recently wrote an op-ed published in their local paper, the Times of Wayne County, talking about the essential work America’s farmers and ranchers continue to perform at this critical moment:

This crisis has demonstrated the importance of supporting our farmers and ensuring that we have a stable, safe and affordable food supply.

But with farming comes immense risk. The Baileys write that they are always dealing with weather threats. Hail and frost are not only hard to plan for, but they can be devastating to an apple crop.

That’s why they purchase crop insurance. The Baileys consider crop insurance a fundamental part of the farm safety net and are asking Congress to continue to support this important program:

Farming is our passion. As first-generation farmers, we know the difficulties that come with growing food. The COVID-19 virus has created more challenges and that’s why we are thankful for the steps that Congress has taken to help support rural America by passing aid packages with help earmarked for farmers.

However, it’s important that Congress also support, long-term, the farm policies that assist our family farm and allow us to survive even the difficult years.

That includes tools such as crop insurance.

America’s farmers are still farming. Let’s make sure they have the tools they need.

 

NY Apple Farmer: Hope Has Not Been Cancelled

A family apple farm in New York is reminding America that farmers are still out there growing essential food, fiber and fuel.

Chip and Carla Bailey produced a video at their KC Bailey Orchard in Williamson, NY, with a simple message: Hope has not been cancelled.

“Because of COVID-19 a lot of things have been shut down and cancelled across America,” Chip Bailey said. “But on the farm, springtime is not cancelled.”

The video features the family hard at work pruning, fertilizing and planting trees to get ready for the spring.

The apples they grow are an important and nourishing food source for many communities. The family is proud to grow food for their neighbors right in New York and customers across America.

Their son, Josh, had to leave college after classes were cancelled but he’s happy to be back on the farm helping out.

“I’m able to work on the farm and I think that’s a great opportunity to be back with the team and keep contributing any way I can,” he says.

The Baileys were featured in a video story National Crop Insurance Services produced last year about how crop insurance helps family farms and allows them to survive the difficult years.

“Unfortunately, so many things have been cancelled but America we are growing the food for you,” Chip Bailey says. “And just remember that hope has not been cancelled.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Crop Insurance Backs Farmers During Unprecedented Uncertainty

Crop insurance has been there for rural America through the many uncertainties that farmers and ranchers face every single day. It’s helped agricultural producers survive droughts, tornados, blizzards, floods, low prices, prevented plantings and even volcanos.

Still, over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new and unprecedented challenges as farmers navigate supply chain disruptions and try to predict how this crisis will affect demand for the products they raise. Yet, despite these difficulties, farmers continue their essential work to feed, clothe and fuel our nation.

So, we have no doubt that we will weather this storm, together, as well.

Crop insurance helps manage some of the risk that farmers still face. Because Mother Nature does not abide by stay-at-home orders and droughts, floods and freezes will inevitably occur, regardless of the pandemic.

Now more than ever, as farmers are planting their crops while facing an unpredictable future, crop insurance is a familiar tool, with a track record of success, that farmers can rely on as they work to feed America and the world. And we are proud to be a trusted partner to so many famers across the country, protecting more than 90 percent of planted acres.

Crop insurers, agents and our partners at USDA have been hard at work to support our producers and we are proud to maintain our incredible record of service to the America farmer during these uncertain times.

We are so grateful for rural America’s tireless commitment to ensuring that we have safe, affordable and nourishing food to provide for our families. That’s why, through this pandemic –  and all storms large and small – we’ve got your back.

Giving Thanks for Our Farmers

This Thursday as you gather around the Thanksgiving table with your family and friends, we hope you pause for a moment to give thanks for America’s farmers and ranchers.

Our farmers work long hours all year long to make the Thanksgiving bounty we enjoy possible.

And farmers are thankful for the Federal crop insurance program.

Crop insurance protects the corn and peas on your table, sweet potatoes in the casserole, pecans and sugar in the pie, even the cranberries in the sauce. The farmer who raised the centerpiece turkey may have protected the land that bird foraged with crop insurance, too.

In total, more than 100 crops are covered by the Federal crop insurance program.

More than one million crop insurance policies protect 90 percent of farmland, providing a dependable risk management tool for farmers of all sizes and many of the foods found at your table, no matter your Thanksgiving tradition.

Producing these crops carries with them a huge amount of risk. Especially in years like these, where weather made planting difficult and harvest impossible for some farmers. Some farmers may not survive what has been an exceptionally tough year. But many others will be able to plant again next spring, thanks to the safety net provided by crop insurance.

Farmers are grateful the Federal crop insurance program gives them an opportunity to invest in their own protection. Farmers and ranchers are required to help fund the crop insurance program, spending $3.5 – 4 billion annually on premiums alone and shouldering billions more in deductible losses.

But crop insurance gives farmers a fighting chance against unpredictable dangers that could jeopardize an entire farm’s future in a moment.

And since it’s run in partnership with the private-sector, farmers do not fear having aid held up by a slow political process. They receive aid in weeks – not years – for their verified losses.

So, as we enter into this season of gratitude, take a moment to celebrate the hard work and dedication that goes into producing America’s food.

New York Farmers Rely on Crop Insurance to Manage Risk

Apple farmer and agri-tourism business owner Matthew Critz got up on New Year’s morning last year to a beautiful winter day in central New York.

Not a cloud in the sky. Wall-to-wall sunshine.

“I look outside at the thermometer and it says 30 below,” he recalled. “And it’s even colder in my orchard. We lost 70 percent of our crop in about three hours that morning.”

Without apples, his business would die. Critz Farms, in Cazenovia, is an easy drive from Syracuse and attracts about 70,000 visitors a year. He sells apples, blueberries, maple syrup and Christmas trees along with brewing beer and hard cider.

“If we don’t have apples, people don’t come,” he says.

Crop insurance saved Critz last year and allowed him to purchase enough apples to make up for the shortfall caused by Mother Nature.

“It did provide quite a good cushion for us,” he says.

National Crop Insurance Services visited farms across central New York as part of our mission to tell the first-hand stories of the farmers and ranchers who rely on the safety net provided by the federal crop insurance program.

Dairy farmer Steve Durfee in Chittenango says the large investment required for each acre he plants makes crop insurance a must. He has about 1,000 milk cows, grows corn and wheat and runs a small vegetable stand mostly for the surrounding neighborhood.

“Buying insurance helps take out some of the risk,” he says. “Last year just looking at what the price of milk was and saying if it continues at this level, it would certainly put a lot of stress on our finances.”

He bought a dairy revenue protection policy to help mitigate the risk of the volatile dairy market. Fortunately, the price of milk rebounded, and he didn’t need to use the insurance.

Like all farmers, Durfee would rather sell his products at a good price than make an insurance claim.

“Crop insurance is just like all the other insurance you have,” he says. “We end up spending a lot of money on insurance, but you can sleep at night knowing if something happens, you are going to be protected partially and you will be able to rebound from it and continue on.”

Down the road in Wolcott, that peace-of-mind is something Alicia Abendroth understands. She runs Abendroth’s Apple Ridge Orchard with her brother and father. They’ve been in business about 6 years.

“For my brother and I, this is a huge deal and we want to grow this,” she says.

As a young farmer, and a young family business, protecting the investment they make in each apple tree is critical to make sure the business grows.

Hail in August this year damaged a crop of early apples right before harvest.

“When something like that happens, there is nothing you can do,” she says. “You just kind of watch it fall. We utilize crop insurance when incidents like that happen that are completely beyond our control. And we are thankful we have it because it’s saved our lives. Crop insurance has helped my dad sleep better at night.”

Central New York is a wonderful place to farm with generally good growing conditions and easy access to large populations of consumers. But here, like the rest of America’s farm country, Mother Nature can be unforgiving.

Back in Cazenovia, that’s something Matthew Critz says he never forgets.

“Your worst risk is weather,” he says. “And if you can cushion that risk with crop insurance, you gotta do it because farming is such a risky business.”

View more stories from across the country at ncis.staging.wpengine.com.

Crop Insurance Helps Pennsylvania Farmer Manage Risk

National Crop Insurance Services recently visited the Grove City, Pennsylvania, farm of John Ligo to discuss how the farm safety net has helped protect his farm against risk. A farmer by choice, Ligo worked in the financial industry before he and his wife purchased their farm in 1988. Now, they produce farm-to-table beef, raising approximately 600 cattle and growing about 400 acres of corn alongside 600 acres of grass and rangeland.

Ligo recently published an op-ed in the Pennsylvania publication Lancaster Farming praising the Federal crop insurance program, an excerpt of which is below:

I’m a farmer because it gives me a chance to shape the land. I can shape my business and my reputation and build my ethic to that picture in my mind of how things should be.

 I don’t know what else I could do besides farming to create that. It’s not always easy, and it’s full of risks, but I love it.

 The risk in farming is part of the landscape. It comes with the job.

 Some risks are controllable, and some are not. We always have risks of health, for the farmer and the livestock. We have risks in weather, which can somewhat be mitigated by our practices, and sometimes not.

 One of those things we can do to manage crop production risks is crop insurance. Crop insurance allows me to expect at least a bottom-line income.

 Last year we had 40 inches of rain here. By June 10, I was short a hundred acres of what I intended to plant. Crop insurance helped me with that.

 There have been years when the sunshine just didn’t bring it to us, and crop yields were low. Crop insurance helped me then, too.

 There are years, occasionally, when we have a drought and grass production is just not what it should be, and feed is hard to buy. A pasture rangeland forage policy through crop insurance helped me during the droughts and I was able to continue doing what I am doing.

 I know my risks are at least covered to a certain extent with crop insurance.

Ligo concluded his op-ed by thanking Congress for expanding crop insurance in the 2018 Farm Bill and calling on lawmakers to ensure crop insurance remains affordable and widely available in future policy debates. Because without crop insurance, farmers like John Ligo would be unable to provide America with the safe, affordable and high-quality products that feed our nation.

Pennsylvania Farmers Consider Crop Insurance a Must-Have Tool

Brian Campbell always knew he wanted to be a farmer. He started a produce stand when he was just 14 years old. Now, his Pennsylvania farm produces mostly vegetables, including broccoli, sweet corn, lettuce and pumpkins.

But weather can be unpredictable in the Northeast, and his farm has seen challenges. In 2011, a severe flood wiped out approximately 50 percent of his expected revenue for that year. Banks no longer wanted to do business with him and he had to dig deep to recover.

Thankfully, the introduction of the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed Campbell to adequately insure his diverse crops against risk.  

National Crop Insurance Services visited Brian Campbell Farms as part of our mission to tell the first-hand stories of the farmers and ranchers who rely on the safety net provided by the federal crop insurance program.

Campbell credits crop insurance for his growing success, saying, “If it wasn’t for whole farm revenue protection today, you know, I may not be at the size that I am.”  

And he’s always looking forward to the next year, “I love what I do. It’s a passion. I really enjoy it.”

For family farmer Dave Clark, farming is also a passion that he just couldn’t shake. He briefly tried working off the farm but returned to his roots in 2001 when he and his wife purchased the family farm in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

“I always say it’s in your blood. I love farming,” Clark says.

Clark considers crop insurance a must-have business tool. He relies on crop insurance to help protect his farm against the inherent risks that come with putting your faith in weather to grow your crops and a favorable market in which to sell them.

As John Ligo says, “Risk in farming is part of the landscape. The risks that we face, some are controllable, and some are not.” But he emphasizes that one way to help mitigate these risks is to purchase crop insurance.

His farm in Grove City, Pennsylvania is home to approximately 600 head of cattle and he grows about 400 acres of corn alongside 600 acres of grass and rangeland.

Last year, Ligo’s farm saw 40 inches of rain and by early June he was short 100 acres of what he intended to plant. Crop insurance helped his farm survive. During those years when drought hindered grass production, crop insurance helped him then, too.

“It does change the way I farm, knowing that my risks are at least covered to a certain extent,” Ligo says.

Third-generation dairy farmer Billy Smith feels deeply connected to his family legacy of farming.  

“I feel that it’s our God-given right here to take care of this land,” he says. “I feel that we’ve been blessed in many ways. You know, it’s our livelihood.”

He’s had to file a couple of crop insurance claims. But knowing that this valuable federal program exists helps ease the worries that come with farming. By reducing some of the risks that can arise on his farm, crop insurance allows him to better plan for the future.

“It’s always there to back us up whenever we need it.”

View more stories from across the country at cropinsuranceinmystate.org.

Congressional Testimony Touts Benefits of Crop Insurance

Farmers across the country know first-hand the critical role the federal crop insurance program plays in protecting our nation’s supply of food and fiber. It’s an important risk management tool that supports both America’s farming communities and the rural economies that rely on them.

Michael Davenport, COO of Rain and Hail and Chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers, brought this positive message to Capitol Hill today when he testified before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

Davenport’s testimony highlighted the unique public-private partnership that allows crop insurance to be flexible, affordable, available, and predictable.

By offering a variety of insurance products, federal crop insurance provides growers with dependable coverage options that fit the requirements of their individual farm. And with new investments in technology and a continuous focus on high-quality customer service, private crop insurers can quickly process claims while keeping costs manageable.

The 2018 Farm Bill helped strengthen the federal crop insurance program, and Davenport thanked the committee for investing in the American farmer.

“With the continued bipartisan support for the public-private partnership crop insurance provides, farmers are able to receive a reliable and cost-efficient safety net to protect both themselves and the future of farming,” Davenport testified.

The overwhelming success of crop insurance has made it the cornerstone of the federal farm safety net. More than 1 million federal crop insurance policies provide more than $100 billion in coverage across 300 million acres of farmland in all 50 states.

“The bottom line is that the crop insurance program is successfully meeting the needs of thousands of farmers who can tailor their risk management needs to serve them best with the help of a local agent,” Davenport said.

And as farmers face significant challenges this year, Davenport emphasized to the committee that the private crop insurance industry is standing ready to provide timely assistance and “fulfill the promises of the Federal Crop Insurance Program to each and every farmer who purchased a policy.”

Farming can be unpredictable. But the federal crop insurance program provides a reliable safety net that benefits farmers and taxpayers alike.

Farm Bill Expands Crop Insurance for Young, Veteran Farmers

The future of farming depends on the next generation taking up the plow, so to speak. But the barriers to entry can be prohibitive – and prohibitively expensive.

Costs for necessary items such as machinery, seeds, or land are high and add up quickly. Not to mention it can be difficult to obtain lines of credit in the first place without access to substantial capital or insurance giving banks the peace of mind that farmers will be able to repay loans.

And all of that sweat and equity could be wiped out in the time it takes a tornado to touch down or floodwaters to rise.

Thankfully, federal crop insurance provides a valuable safety net.

Farming can be an especially daunting task for those that are a part of traditionally underserved communities, such as beginning farmers or veterans.

Many of these farmers tend to lack the equity and liquid assets necessary to begin farming, and therefore rely on loans. And most lenders require crop insurance coverage to act as a backstop should disaster strike.

Congress recognized the importance of supporting these farmers and took steps to increase their access to crop insurance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

Legislators expanded premium discounts for Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policies to those with ten years or less farming experience. Twenty-seven percent of American farmers fell into this category during the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

In addition, the Farm Bill reduced regulatory burdens for those with WFRP policies by allowing waivers for expanding operations, especially for small and beginning farmers, reducing record keeping requirements for small farmers and minimizing paperwork.

USDA data indicates that the rural population of post-9/11 veterans is growing quickly and provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill seek to increase access for those veterans who wish to enter farming. Congress included veteran farmers and ranchers as part of a new definition of underserved producers, allowing them to take advantage of improved crop insurance benefits such as additional premium discounts.

And the Farm Bill mandated that the Risk Management Agency produce an Underserved Producer Report every three years in order to continue identifying ways the federal government can reform and improve these programs in order to increase participation and better serve these communities.

In total, these reforms will help give new and veteran farmers the tools they need to effectively manage their risks.

National Crop Insurance Services recently spoke with young Iowa farmer Colin Johnson who emphasized the important role crop insurance plays in ensuring he can continue farming, saying that he “probably wouldn’t have lasted two years without… crop insurance support.”

Farming can be difficult. But access to affordable and dependable crop insurance will help pave the way for future generations of American farmers.

Crop Insurance Supports Penn. Farmers in Lean Times

Scott Bowser runs a dairy farm about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania’s famous farm country.

His dad bought the farm when he was 6 and started with a herd of 14 cows. It’s grown since then and today, Bowser farms with his wife and youngest daughter, Abby. His oldest daughter would like to come back to the family farm.

Like all dairy farmers in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, he’s felt the impact of tariffs in the international market and low commodity prices.

“You take the good with the bad,” he says. “And everybody knows, the last few years have not been so good.”

But Bowser loves it. And he wants to pass the farm down to his children.

“If you want something for your kids to take over … if that’s something that they really want to do, there has to be something there,” he says.

National Crop Insurance Services recently visited farmers across Pennsylvania to find out how they are managing to keep something here for themselves and the next generation.

Times are tough in the Commonwealth.

The state, second in the nation in dairy, lost 370 farms last year, according to USDA.

Farmers all across Pennsylvania say crop insurance – whether whole farm revenue protection or policies that cover pasture, rangeland and forage – plays a critical role in keeping family operations going.

Down the road from Bowser’s place, Jared Smith is the eight-generation farming his family’s land. He wants to pass it to his children.

“The margins in agriculture are so slim right now that I feel crop insurance gives you a level of security that you are going to have some income off the investment you are making into your crops,” he says.

It helped keep him in business last year when late season rains forced him to leave hay, meant for his cows, standing in the fields.

Bowser agrees. He went 10 years without making a claim until wet years hurt his corn and bean crops.

“Crop insurance is one of those things that when you need it, you need it real bad,” he says. “And you get that check and you’re really glad to see that check coming. You might not be in business if you didn’t have it. The risks are too great.”

Editor’s Note: National Crop Insurance Services is back on the road this year to speak first-hand with farmers, ranchers and insurance adjusters across the country about the unique challenges they face and the importance of crop insurance. The consensus is clear—crop insurance is one tool that farmers simply cannot do without. Watch their stories unfold at cropinsuranceinmystate.org.

Family Farms in Iowa Find Crop Insurance Invaluable

The Swanson family has been rooted in Wapello County, Iowa for over 170 years. Don Swanson and his brother, Bill, grew up watching their fathers work the land. “It’s just a passion that we grew up with,” Don said.

It’s a passion that Don and Bill hope to pass along to their children and grandchildren.

But modern-day farming is more than the inherent satisfaction that comes from harvesting a crop planted from seed or raising the next generation of livestock.

“I wish I had time to do what lay persons consider farming – driving the tractor, feeding the cows,” Don laments. “It’s a full time job for me just managing the books, managing the risk, forward planning and strategic planning.”

National Crop Insurance Services has traveled across the country to talk to farmers and agriculture lenders on the ground to learn what crop insurance means to their farms, families, and communities. For the Swanson family, they would be left vulnerable without the safety net that crop insurance provides.

“Crop insurance protects that bottom line… It’s by far the best government program we have, hands down,” Don said.

Another multi-generation Iowa farmer, Dustin Johnson, enjoys being able to share the rewards of his labor with his children and expose them to the first-hand educational experiences that a working farm provides.

“In a world where technology has kind of taken over, it’s still nice to be able to bring the kids out, ride around in the tractor, get to see first-hand what Dad does every day,” he noted.

When Dustin started farming, the amount of capital required for essential items was daunting. Especially when his income relied not only on his hard work, but the hazards of unpredictable weather, and market fluctuations.

“The risks go way beyond anything that I can control,” Dustin explained. “Which is a really good thing to have crop insurance for.”

Crop insurance gives Dustin the peace of knowing that even in a down year, “we’re still going to have a safety there that we’re going to be able to farm next year.”

For many Iowa towns, agriculture is not only an integral part of the community but also critical to their economic success.

Erica Wuthrich from Bloomfield, Iowa, explains, “The majority of the families around here are farmers… if we didn’t have the farming operations around here, it wouldn’t be good – it would be awful.”

As young farmers, Erica and her husband, Brent, rely on the stability that crop insurance provides in order to keep their farm running. “We don’t make money from it, but it helps us sustain our operation,” Erica said.

Another young Iowa farmer, Colin Johnson, echoes this sentiment, “A component like crop insurance and the assistance that we get, as a young farmer, that helps me know I can continue farming another year. I have been farming for nine years on my own, and… I probably wouldn’t have lasted two years without my crop insurance support.”

Iowa farmers know first-hand that farming does not mean an easy harvest or quick profit. Jared Lyle, Senior Vice President and Senior Loan Officer for Iowa State Bank and Trust in Fairfield, stresses to his agriculture customers the importance of protecting their farms by purchasing crop insurance.

“It’s more a matter of a safety net to keep them from not losing quite as much money and keeping them in business,” Jared explains.

Weakening the public-private partnership of federal crop insurance would be detrimental to the Iowa families that Iowa State Bank and Trust serves.

“There will be less farmers in business for sure, if they lose that safety net,” Jared said. “Ag is very important. I would hate to see anybody underestimate that.”

Eastern North Carolina farmers on long road to recovery after Hurricane Florence

WALLACE, NC – Justine Price was looking forward to a great soybean crop this fall. His beans were coming in strong, covering the fields of his eastern North Carolina farm in a lush green.

Mother Nature had other plans.

As Hurricane Florence approached the North Carolina coast, he moved his equipment to higher ground and prepared as best he could for what was expected to be a storm with Category 4 winds.

What he wasn’t expecting was the rain. The storm stalled once it made landfall and dumped almost 30 inches on his farm. The river flooded, and water rose to about 5 feet in his garage as Price and his wife moved their furniture to the second story of their home.

Today, piles of debris from the inside of gutted homes lines the street in his hometown of Wallace.

In his fields, brown and rotting soybeans are tangled. Old tires, a refrigerator, gas cans and wooden crates are strewn across another nearby field.

Price spends his time now trying to rebuild, helping his family and loading supplies at the fire department to help with the relief effort. His crops are a total loss.

“I had been smart in my decision making,” he says, “and carried crop insurance, which you know that’s not a salvation but it’s a help.”

Down the road in Mt. Olive, Reginald Strickland faces the same damage. His cotton crop is rotting in the fields and his tobacco is destroyed.

“Every dollar will help,” he says, “because we are going to be in the hole.”

And it’s not just this year. Eastern North Carolina has suffered hurricanes, droughts and low prices for several years running.

The damage left in Hurricane Florence’s wake is a reminder of the reason American agriculture needs a strong, affordable and widely available system of crop insurance. The adjusters will make their assessments and get payments to farmers here much faster than any ad hoc federal relief bill.

“Crop insurance is very important to all of Ag,” Strickland says. “We really need it. We have to have it. It is the only way we can continue to produce the food and fiber it takes to feed the world.”

Price says the payments won’t cover everything and they won’t provide him income until the next crop is harvested. But they will help him farm another season.

For now, he is putting his faith in a higher power.

“Just trust in the Lord,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Watch these stories and more at cropinsuranceinmystate.org.

Montana Farms Fight Weather, Low Prices to Stay in Business

Evan Volf spent a few years in banking after college. He had a good job with Northwest Farm Credit Services managing a growing portfolio in Bozeman.

It was 9-5 with weekends off, retirement and health insurance. The money was great for his growing family.

But Volf’s heart was at the family ranch and farm 120 miles north in Judith Gap. He grew up there with his two brothers and always dreamed of going back to work the land with his father, Jeff.

 

When his dad called one day and said there was a chance to lease more land and grow the business, he gladly gave up his banking job and moved his family back to the farm.

It certainly wasn’t the low pay or working seven days a week at the mercy of weather that brought him back.

“What brought us back is the lure of the country lifestyle and being your own boss and working with your family,” he said. “And working with your kids on a day-to-day basis and bringing them up with the values that we all know and love.”

The story of the Volf family is among several that National Crop Insurance Services documented in Montana as part of its ongoing series on American farmers and ranchers. The state’s vast distances and often unpredictable weather make farming and ranching here challenging.

Today, Evan farms with his wife, Brittany, three children EJ, Miles and Dexter, and his mom and dad. They raise red angus cattle, wheat, barley, alfalfa along with willow creek hay barely and peas.

This year, bad weather delayed planting. Typically, they are seeding by April 20, but weren’t able to get a seed in the ground until May 5.

And a big storm two days later brought five more inches of snow and kept them out of the fields for another two weeks.

His father, also grew up on the farm and ranch and has been running it full-time since 1978. He’s seen plenty of springs like this last one.

“Mother nature is always in the background saying hey we are going to dry out here next week … so we just really need to have (crop insurance) to cover our expenses if we do have major wipe out here with hail or a drought. And we’ve had that,” Jeff said.

Evan is likewise glad that crop insurance is part of the family’s business plan.

“Thankfully, we have crop insurance to help us manage these kinds of circumstances. We pay for this protection, but it is well worth it,” he explained.

Not far from the Volf farm, insurance adjusters learned how to accurately assess damage to crops in a training session at Montana State University’s Central Ag Research Center in Moccasin.

Eddy Joyce, an adjuster with ARMTech Insurance, who currently serves as the chair of the NCIS Montana Committee, was one of the instructors.

“We provide schools for both new and experienced adjusters and we also discuss potential policy issues within the crops here in Montana,” Joyce said.

Joyce said having a training school is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and to get all the adjusters, both young and old – experienced and inexperienced – familiar with the policies so there’s no variability.

“Any time you can be prepared and educated, I believe in any field, you are going to put whoever you are working with at ease. If they can see you are a knowledgeable individual within your field and a professional within your field they are going to be a lot more comfortable with you than if you go in blind, so to say,” Joyce said.

Mike Mills, who works for Rural Community Insurance Services and served as a trainer at the school, agreed.

“It’s really important that adjusters are trained in the NCIS procedures for the crops that have been researched so very well by the different aggregate universities throughout the Northwest and Montana and some even in southern Canada. They give us the most viable and accurate and fair way of providing, adjusting and evaluating crop damage to give the farmers fair payments on the policies they have bought,” Mills said.

Watch these stories and more at cropinsuranceinmystate.org

Crop Insurance Critical to Colorado Farmers

National Crop and Insurance Services (NCIS) is on the road this year to speak first-hand with farmers, ranchers and insurance adjusters across the country about the unique challenges they face and the importance of crop insurance. The consensus is clear—crop insurance is one tool that farmers simply cannot do without.

In this What’s Cropping Up, we are pleased to share profiles of farmers and ranchers in Colorado.

 

Steve Wooten

Steve Wooten operates Beatty Canyon Ranch in northeast Las Animas County. Earlier this year, his family ranch was awarded the Colorado Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes agricultural landowners actively committed to a land ethic.

Being stewards of the land is something that has always been important to the Wootens, who have made great progress in conservation methods over the years.

But, as Wooten noted, unfortunately, no amount of innovation can protect farmers from variables like weather.  For the last 20 years, persistent drought situations have affected his cow-calf operation.

“Thankfully, today we do have some tools in place to help deal with these types of weather-related risks. One of the most important tools is an efficient crop insurance program for our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” Wooten said.

On Beatty Canyon Ranch, fourth, fifth and even sixth generations are involved in day-to-day operations, and the family’s ranching history stretches back to when Wooten’s great-grandfather immigrated from Ireland. While this may sound impressive, it is not uncommon among farm families.

“We are doing our part, and I urge Congress to do its part by passing a new Farm Bill with crop insurance intact. It, along with our ongoing conservation efforts, will ensure that farmers and ranchers will have a legacy to pass down to future generations,” Wooten said.

Watch his video story here.

 

Tim Brown

Tim Brown, of Limon, Colorado, is a third-generation farmer. His dad started the farm in 1956. But his father suffered two hailstorms in a row that effectively closed the farm and forced him to work elsewhere.

Brown says he faces some of the same issues today that his family faced when he was growing up, including fluctuating markets, trade issues and, of course, Mother Nature.

“This is the importance of the crop insurance. If we didn’t have the crop insurance, I don’t know what we would do,” Brown said.

Brown noted that many people don’t realize crop insurance only covers a farmer’s costs – at best.

“It just barely covers my cost to put that crop in the ground. Just barely,” he said.

Watch his video story here.

 

Brad Rock

Brad Rock has been farming in Wray, Colorado, for 20 years. His family grows several crops, raises cattle and runs a trucking operation.

“We do it because we love it,” Rock said. “We get to provide a quality product to the consumer that we feel comfortable growing and raising.”

His son, Alex, went to college and came home to help on the farm, particularly on the technology side. His dad says it is his calling.

But Rock notes that one of the current challenges his family farm faces is an increase in input costs, including seed fertilizer, rent, equipment and employee costs.

“If we were not to have crop insurance and we would lose a crop, we don’t have any way to recoup any of our input costs,” Rock said.

This year, Rock’s farm lost nine quarters of ground, including wheat, sunflowers, millet and corn – all in one afternoon storm. A week later, the farm lost another quarter.

“If we didn’t have (crop) insurance, we would be in a world of hurt,” Rock said. “Not only do we depend on that to pay for our expenses, but we have seven other employees that work for us.”

Programs like crop insurance also help keep food prices low for consumers, Rock noted.

Watch his video story here.

 

Our series continues soon in Montana so be sure to check back at cropinsuranceinmystate.org for more great stories to watch and share.

ICYMI: Crop Insurance Helps Preserve Farming for Future Generations

Farming is a unique profession in so many ways. First, it is more like a calling — to be part of God’s gifts here, and a steward of these gifts. To follow a crop from seed to harvest, or to see an animal born and grow to maturity — that’s a lot of the reason we do what we do.

But farming is different from other professions in other ways as well, including the unique risks and unpredictabilities we face every year. Farmers, for example, are always at the mercy of the weather. A 200-bushel corn crop can quickly become a 50-bushel corn crop under the wrong conditions.

In addition, we face a volatile market and never know which way the pendulum is going to swing. Lately, it hasn’t been swinging in our direction.

Thankfully, we have tools like crop insurance that help us manage risks like these. I feel strongly that crop insurance is critical to preserving our farms for future generations. So strongly, in fact, that in addition to being a farmer, I have also served as a crop insurance agent for fellow farmers for nearly two decades.

In my role as a crop insurance agent, I work with growers to help them purchase protection they need whether they are starting a farm, or preparing for their next crop.

For beginning farmers, having this protection is especially important. Many farmers starting out rely on banks for operating loans and these banks often require crop insurance so that farmers can pay back these loans if they have a bad year.

It has been extremely rewarding for me to work with these young farmers and to play a role in helping them not only get started in business, but stay in business despite the numerous challenges farm country has experienced in recent years.

During the severe drought of 2012, for example, our area had terrible crop yields. That year was hard enough on established farmers, but for beginning farmers I know that having crop insurance played an integral role in their survival.

There are a few misconceptions out there about crop insurance, which have become especially widespread during the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations. But let’s be clear: Crop insurance is not a handout.

Farmers purchase crop insurance out of their own pockets. On average, farmers spend $3.5 to $4 billion per year for crop insurance coverage. Last year in Kentucky, farmers collectively paid $57 million for coverage. As is the case with other types of insurance, we must prove that we have met a deductible to be eligible for a payment for a portion of our loss.

Because of the unique risks involved in farming, the federal government also provides support to reduce the cost to farmers. If we didn’t have this federal support, crop insurance would simply not be affordable for most of America’s farmers and ranchers.

Of note, before crop insurance was widely available and efficient like it is today, the cost of natural disasters fell directly on U.S. taxpayers by way of disaster bills. And they took forever to get to the farm.

I am fortunate to be the eighth generation of my family to farm in LaRue County, although I didn’t inherit family farm land. We purchased our farm more than a decade ago, basically starting from scratch. It hasn’t always been easy, but it is our way of life — our calling. Agriculture has always been the backbone of our country, and I would love for one or all three of my children to carry on this tradition.

In order for that to happen, we have to protect crop insurance.

Jeremy Hinton is a farmer and crop insurance agent in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

This op-ed was published in the Herald News (LaRue County, Kentucky)

New Series Documents Crop Insurance’s Importance as Congress Hammers Out Farm Bill

Farmers across the nation spent the dog days of summer praying for more rain, or less rain, harvesting wheat, worrying about failed corn crops and wondering how far commodity prices will drop.

And in Washington, lawmakers spent the hot summer hammering out their differences in the Farm Bill – a critical piece of legislation the agriculture community hopes will pass before fall harvest time.

National Crop Insurance Services set out this summer to document the lives and voices of farmers across America in a new series that debuts today with stories from Kentucky and Indiana. You can watch the stories on NCIS’ new website, cropinsuranceinmystate.org, which also features a host of information about America’s top farm safety net program.

Jeff Coke is one of the farmers NCIS caught up with. He loves growing corn and soybeans on his farm in Owensboro, Kentucky. His love of the land might sound strange to the folks in the big cities.

“We have a tie to the dirt that other people don’t understand,” he said. “You know, I like the smell of fresh dirt. Most people think that’s crazy. I like the smell of fresh cut hay. I like the smell of silage. Manure doesn’t even upset me. That’s the smell, when I was a kid, you always smelled in the spring time.”

Despite his love and care for the land he farms, this year hasn’t been good to Coke. He’s lost a lot of his crop.

“We usually start drilling wheat about the 10th of October,” he said. “We only got to go about five days and then it started raining and it’s been wet ever since until we started planting corn and we’ve been wet off and on even through the corn planting season. I’ve already lost some corn three times.”

Crop insurance will help him recover at least some of what he lost in the corn. It will help him farm another season and deliver the quality food American’s expect at a price they can afford.

“It is a total protection plan for our food supply,” he said. “If you lose your farmers, you lose your food. It’s that simple.”

Across the state line in Boonville, Indiana, Mike Heuring is expecting a decent harvest. He hasn’t had the problems with the wet weather that Coke experienced.

While this harvest is looking up, it wasn’t too long ago that Heuring, who is also a crop insurance agent, faced a massive loss. The drought of 2012 remains the worst he can remember and likely the worst his family has experienced in at least three generations.

“It was so hot,” he said. “In addition to being dry it was very hot. And you could actually smell the corn cooking in the field on some of those afternoons.”

Without insurance, he says he would have had to sell land or equipment, or take out loans on property, to farm another year.

“I don’t know if it would have put me out of business, but it would have been 10 steps backwards,” he said. “It would have been really bad.”

He’s glad to see Congress is keeping crop insurance intact in the Farm Bill instead of limiting it, or making it more expensive, as some opponents of American agriculture have suggested.

“Why not have a safety net where the people that occasionally benefit from it are paying into it,” he said. “It’s not a handout.”

It’s also better than disaster legislation, which in the past has been mired in politics and late to arrive, he said.

“I think it’s much better than an ad hoc disaster type program,” he said. “By the time you would actually get that benefit it’s almost too late anyway. So yeah, I think crop insurance is the best system and obviously the majority of farmers agree based upon the participation rates.”

Farmers in Ohio, Kentucky Advocate for Crop Insurance

A pair of soybean farmers in America’s heartland are urging Congress to leave crop insurance alone as it debates the 2018 Farm Bill with columns published recently in newspapers in both states.

Scott Metzger, who farms with his family at Metzger Family Farms in Williamsport, Ohio, offered his story of decades of heartbreak that came from a single storm in a piece published in the Circleville Herald.

His family has been farming in south central Ohio for six generations, he said in the piece. He is proud of his heritage and knew from a young age he wanted to farm.

“When I was 5, on a July day in 1980, a storm tore through our community in Williamsport,” he wrote. “The things I remember about that day are the memories of a child: My toy tractor blown down the road. The roof ripped off the house. The shop flattened. All of that could be repaired. But in our fields was a disaster that I’ve been dealing with now for my entire adult life.”

The family ended up with crushing debt that year. They had to sell farm land to stay in business. It took 36 years to buy all of it back.

“While the story is sad enough, there’s a tragic piece of irony to add,” Metzger noted. “That year, back in 1980, a man came by the farm selling crop insurance. He was one of the first in our area to offer it. My family declined. We had never needed it before and didn’t see a reason to spend on it then.”

Today, crop insurance is part of the Metzger family farm’s business plan. He said modern and effective products like Harvest Price Option allow his farm to forward contract and not be as concerned if they have a short crop in the summer and need to buy back contracts.

Metzger is on the Ohio Soybean Association Board of Trustees and is a director with the American Soybean Association.

“As Congress debates the Farm Bill, I hope lawmakers will remember my family’s story and continue to support the modern crop insurance farmers have come to rely on,” he concluded.

In Kentucky, farmer Caleb Ragland penned an op-ed that was published in the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown not far from where he farms.

His family has been farming in Kentucky for nine generations.

“At 31, I’m already a lifer,” he wrote in the piece. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than growing soybeans, corn and winter wheat and raising pigs in a pretty part of the world.”

But, Ragland explained that the business of farming has been tough in recent years.

Nationally, farm incomes are down 50 percent compared to what they were 5 years ago putting everyone in a financial pinch.

“Grain prices are down,” he said. “So are beef, pork, poultry and milk. Couple all of that with the fact that most of your farmland operations, on any scale, have substantial debt loads, and it’s easy to see how people are struggling in farm country.”

Ragland is optimistic, though. The growing population will mean a good future for farmers if smart policy decisions are made in Washington, he concluded.

And, leaving crop insurance unchanged in the 2018 Farm Bill, including Harvest Price Option, is a smart choice.

“HPO lets us forward market our crops,” he wrote. “It protects revenue, not just yields, offering the equivalent of ‘replacement value’ coverage on a car. And as farmers, we’re willing to pay extra for the protection HPO offers because it gives you the faith you need put your borrowed money in the ground and know you’ll be able to pay it back.”

Ragland’s request of Congress was simple: Don’t fix wasn’t isn’t broken.

ICYMI: Crop Insurance Must be Protected in Upcoming Farm Bill

As the Farm Bill is being debated in Washington, one thing that I, as president of the Montana Grain Growers, am committed to emphasizing is the importance of crop insurance.

Put simply, crop insurance is cornerstone of our nation’s farm policy, with 90 percent of farmland today enrolled in the program. In Montana, that accounts for 19.8 million acres and $1.1 billion in insured liability on growing crops.

The numbers tell the story, but let me share another compelling one — my own.

I returned to my fourth-generation family farm in south central Montana in 2012 and my first wheat crop was harvested the following year. During that first growing season, we were in the middle of a significant drought — and ultimately went almost 24 months with little to no precipitation. Late rains helped a little, but for my winter wheat, much of the damage had already been done.

The crop was slow to emerge, slow to grow, and had several other issues that limited its potential. Then came the final devastating blow. In June, a powerful thunderstorm rolled through the area. By the time it was finished, three-quarters of my crop was pounded into the ground. What limited potential that the crop did have was erased in a matter of minutes.

For a fledging farm operation like mine, something like this would be impossible to come back from without some safety net in place. Because of crop insurance, I was able to farm again after that year, and continue, alongside my father and husband, to farm the land to this day.

No, crop insurance certainly didn’t make up for the crop I lost that first year, but it did keep me from having to tell the bank I could not pay back my operating loans, or that I could not make the payments on my new machinery loan. Having crop insurance kept me from failing before I even got started.

My story is not unique. Farmers across the nation must take out huge operating loans to keep their businesses afloat. This, combined with the unpredictability of Mother Nature, makes it having crop insurance crucial to the solvency of these operations.

A handful of farm policy critics in D.C, who have never stepped foot on a farm, are quick to call for cuts to crop insurance despite the fact it is more efficient and cost-effective than the alternative. I don’t think any of us would like to go back to the days before we had crop insurance, when natural disaster management was mostly accomplished in the form of costly emergency disaster legislation, with taxpayers footing the bill.

Farmers and rural communities know the importance of the crop insurance firsthand. We know it needs to remain a viable program for farmers and we know we need to protect it from having bits and pieces dismantled through budget resolutions, appropriations, and Farm Bill negotiations.

It is incumbent on all of us to share this message with lawmakers in Washington to and urge them to “do no harm” to the crop insurance program.

Michelle Erickson-Jones is president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She operates a grain and forage operation with her father, Bart, and husband, Travis, near Broadview.

This op-ed was published in the Billings Gazette.

Farmers Urge Congress to Back Crop Insurance in New Video

For more than a year, farmers from across the country have urged the U.S. House Agriculture Committee to maintain a strong crop insurance system in the 2018 Farm Bill.  And now, you can hear the farmers’ messages in their own words.

The Committee on Tuesday released a video testimony from its nationwide hearings that details the job-saving benefits of the public-private partnership of crop insurance to American farmers.

The one-minute clip takes viewers to testimony last year in Minnesota, New York, California, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

“Personally, I was involved in a hail storm this year where we lost the corn and the beans on one farm,” said one farmer. “We are not going to make any money at that this year, but we will be able to farm again next year because of those risk management tools.”

“Crop insurance is indispensable and all I am going to say here is, it is absolutely critical,” another added.

One farmer finished his testimony with a clear request to the Committee.

“I want to leave you with six easy words to remember,” he said.  “Crop Insurance. Safety net. No changes.”

Well said, farmers.  And thank you for your continued support.