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.

ICYMI: Crop Insurance Protects Farming for Future Generations

Wheat farmers in the heartland are facing tough times. Prices have bottomed out, Mother Nature has been unrelenting and this year’s wheat harvest was well below average.

On our five-generation family farm in Sentinel, the story is no different. Our wheat acres were down just like nearly everybody else who grows the crop. And unfortunately, some economists are predicting things might get worse before they get better.

It’s in years like these that we can really appreciate the importance of the farm safety net, with federally supported crop insurance as its cornerstone. To be blunt, it would virtually be impossible to farm in western Oklahoma without crop insurance. And certainly impossible to secure the farm for future generations.

Crop insurance helps us manage risk and we are happy to pay into this safety net that kicks in when the worst happens. More often than not, farmers pay into the crop insurance system and don’t get anything back at all. And that is how we prefer it.

We are in the farming business and we take pride in our crops. We set out from the get-go to raise a crop the best we can. We want to get our money out of the marketplace, if we can. I tell my crop insurance agent, “I hope you don’t pay me a penny. I don’t want your money — I want it in the marketplace where it belongs.”

But in farming, there are no guarantees. And that is where crop insurance comes in. It won’t make up for a bad year, but it helps us to keep farming for another year.

It hasn’t always been this way. I have been farming for more than five decades and I remember quite well the days before we had an effective crop insurance program. For many years, natural disaster management was mostly accomplished in the form of costly disaster bills. These bills were not only slow in arriving to the farm, but also fell flat on the laps of taxpayers.

With crop insurance, agents sell policies, insurance companies service them and the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the program, making it affordable and widely available to all growers through aspects such as premium discounts.

For beginning farmers, having this protection is especially important. Many young farmers rely on banks for operating loans. And banks won’t make these loans without assurance that farmers would have a way to pay it back if Mother Nature strikes.

Farm policy critics, many of whom are paid anti-farm lobbyists, can be quick to criticize crop insurance. But ask anyone in farm country and they will tell you that putting limits on our most successful farm safety net tool is the last thing we can afford right now, especially given the current downturn.

I want to see my sons and grandsons continue our family tradition of farming. For this reason, and many others, I encourage you to join me in calling on our lawmakers in Washington to preserve and protect this important program as they continue to debate budgets and the upcoming farm bill. The future of farm country may very well depend on it.

Jimmie Musick, of Sentinel, is president of the National Association of Wheat Growers.​

This op-ed was published in The Oklahoman.

Thank a Farmer, It’s Thanksgiving and They Helped Make It Possible

As your family sits down to a Thanksgiving meal this week, take a look around at all the wonderful food and consider where it came from.

The sweet potatoes, peas, corn, rice and the wheat in the bread. The cranberries in the sauce and the sugar and pumpkin in the pie. The onions and tomatoes in the salad. The almonds that might be on your green beans.

American farmers brought all this to your table. This week, we are thankful for their hard work and the great risk they took in spending their time and money growing the food we enjoy as our Thanksgiving Day meal.

Just as we give thanks to farmers, they are thankful for the crop insurance that allows them to bring us a Thanksgiving meal every year.

Crop insurance covers most every crop that goes into the food on your table today – not to mention the clothes on your back.

In fact, it covers more than 130 different crops grown on 290 million acres in the United States with an insured value of $100 billion.

For the food made with crops that are not covered, we can all be thankful that crop insurance is built so it can expand as needed. Any farmer, or farm group, or university researcher can design an insurance tool to cover an uncovered crop and take it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for consideration.

And more and more growers want to make sure policies are tailored to their specific needs.  That’s because crop insurance is a cornerstone of America’s farm safety net that helps farmers pick up the pieces after a flood destroys their pumpkin fields or a storm knocks down all the corn stalks.

It’s not a handout. Just like with any other insurance, farmers pay premiums and must meet deductibles before policies cover losses. And those losses are investigated by trained adjusters.

Sure, the insurance doesn’t cover all of a farmer’s losses just like most car insurance won’t buy you a brand-new car after a wreck. But, crop insurance offers farmers a chance to stay in business year after year with unpredictable Mother Nature and volatile world prices.

For that, we should all be thankful.

ICYMI: Crop Insurance Critical for Farmers and Consumers

The Farm Bill debate is heating up in Washington and that has me thinking back to 2015.

We received way too much rainfall in central Missouri that spring and my family’s farm in Boone County, like many across the state, suffered big losses. We were only able to plant 40 out of our normal 500 acres of soybeans. Statewide, more than a million acres of soybeans went unplanted.

Without crop insurance, an event like that would have financially broken our farm.

It would have been nearly impossible to stay in business for the following year because of overhead costs like equipment and land, not to mention the input costs required to raise a crop that were already applied.

That was a tough year for my dad, Nathan, and me. We farm 1,000 acres raising corn, soybeans and occasionally small grains. My dad also runs a cow-calf operation.

Crop insurance, which is part of the farm bill, helped us that year but it doesn’t cover all of the costs. Prevented-planting coverage, in the 2015 example, only covered 60 percent of our per-acre revenue, minus the premium we paid.

But it’s certainly better than going out of business. And that’s something I hope Congress considers in the 2018 farm bill.

I grew up on a farm. I studied agricultural systems management at the University of Missouri and worked as a field test engineer for three years after college. I enjoyed it and was able to travel all over the United States and across parts of South America.

But you can only travel like that for so long, and I love farming. So, when an opportunity opened up back home I gladly returned to the family farm.

It’s an honor to grow food for America and the world. But it’s also much riskier than a paycheck from an employer, like when I worked as an engineer. Crop insurance for me, as a young producer, is a critical risk management tool.

Row crops especially are very capital intensive. The equipment, machinery, buildings and structures on the farm and the land all have costs. Then you add in costs like seed, fertilizer, pest protection and fuel, and it equals a significant investment per acre every year.

All of those dollars invested each year are subject to risk that farmers cannot control based upon the weather and the markets.

Crop insurance is a way we can mitigate risk and hopefully be able to continue to farm the following season if we do have a weather disaster that prevents us from being solvent.

Crop insurance is not unlike other forms of insurance. Whether it’s your automobile or health insurance, you don’t intend to ever have a claim or use the policy, but it’s a safety net when something goes wrong. It’s there as risk protection, and it’s something that is necessary to be successful in today’s farming operations.

That’s why it has become a cornerstone of the American farm safety net. It’s a public-private partnership that protects the investments farmers make in each crop and it protects taxpayers from costly disaster-relief bills.

It means when weather strikes in central Missouri, the insurance companies help cover the losses, not Congress. That’s why it is so strange that some lawmakers are angling to make crop insurance more expensive and less available.

I hope Congress remembers in the next farm bill that crop insurance is not only necessary for rural America, but that ultimately it protects the consumer. Without it, we would not be able to provide a safe, reliable and affordable food supply for America and the rest of the world.

Brian Martin raises corn, soybeans, and small grains with his father, Nathan, in Boone County, Missouri.

This op-ed was published in The Kansas City Star.

Farm Bureau President Urges Farmers to Speak Up for Crop Insurance

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), is urging farmers to make their voices heard as the next Farm Bill is being considered.

“Constantly communicate with (legislators) week in and week out,” he said during a recent visit to Indiana, where he met with members of the media.

“And then when these congressmen and senators and other representatives come to their community and have town hall meetings, our farmers need to get off their tractors and out of their barns and then need to be present,” Duvall added.

He also encouraged farmers to share their own stories.

“Farmers can be involved on social media and bring the truth to the surface,” Duvall said. “Invite people to come to the farm. Let them see for themselves. It’s so valuable to a mother, to a congressman, to see and ask questions about farms.”

Duvall said that if there is a fight over crop insurance funding, that kind of grassroots engagement is critical.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have congressmen and senators who understand the importance of crop insurance. Crop insurance is a requirement of most lending institutions today, and it is important to have that risk management tool there for our farmers,” Duvall said.

Maintaining a strong crop insurance program in the upcoming Farm Bill is a top priority of the Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest farm organization.

“The cornerstone of the 2014 farm bill was crop insurance,” Duvall said. “Our first need and want [in the next Farm Bill] is to maintain that support of our crop insurance program, to make sure our farmers have that risk management tool.”

Duvall’s visit to the Hoosier State was part of his commitment to visit farmers in every state during his first two years.

Wheat Growers Voice Support for Crop Insurance

Opponents of agriculture recently gathered in Washington, D.C., to strategize for ways to dismantle farm policies in the upcoming Farm Bill.

Crop insurance was among their targets – specifically making insurance protection less affordable and available to farmers, and less economically viable for the private sector to deliver.

Many agriculture groups, including the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), cried foul, calling the farm policy critic summit short-sighted and ultimately harmful the farming community and a struggling rural economy.

David Schemm, NAWG’s president and Kansas farmer, said that critics fail to consider challenges unique to agriculture, including lower rates of return and weather-related risks.

In addition, American farmers also compete with foreign countries that use trade-distorting support programs that violate their World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments.

“Rural America and farming families are experiencing some of the worst economic hardships in decades. Now isn’t the time to implement policies that harm these families and stump economic growth,” Schemm said.

Ben Adams, a farmer and president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), also weighed in. He explained that farmers pay premiums into the program each year with the hope of not collecting an indemnity.

“It is very misleading to consider federal crop insurance a hand-out when its purpose is to provide a risk management tool when unforeseeable conditions arise,” Adams said.

Adams noted that recently eastern Washington farmers have experienced weather conditions that have greatly harmed their bottom lines.

“Crop insurance does not generate excess income, but rather it aids in recovering some of the loss so that we might be able to farm another year,” Adams said.

The wheat groups called on Congress to “ignore the rhetoric” of farm critics during the 2018 Farm Bill debate and to continue working with farmers during the process.

“In order to provide a safe, abundant and affordable food supply, farmers across the country need a strong safety net. And that includes federal crop insurance,” the groups concluded.

Guest Editorials Stress Importance of Crop Insurance to Nation’s Farmers

As Farm Bill discussions continue, so do the misguided attacks on America’s farm policy. But the ag community is making its voice heard, taking to newspaper opinion pages across the country to stress the indispensable role crop insurance plays in helping American farmers provide affordable food for America and the world.

Dorian Culver, a soybean farmer and crop insurance agent from from Harrisonville, Missouri, said that crop insurance is more important than ever in a guest column appearing in The Columbia Daily Tribune.

He pointed out that in addition to the typical weather rollercoaster, farmers are facing another year of low prices. Meanwhile, input costs (farm equipment, fertilizer, land rent, etc.) remain the same.

“It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that the numbers just aren’t adding up for our nation’s farmers,” Culver wrote.

Culver, a lifelong farmer, said that he hasn’t seen this kind of downturn since the farm crisis of the 1980s. But thankfully, a few things have changed since then that puts us in a better position to weather this latest storm.

“One of the most important developments is the emergence of a strong crop insurance program,” Culver wrote.

According to Culver, a strong crop insurance program protects not only farmers, but everyone who eats. He said that farm policy critics would do well to remember that every American consumer relies on agriculture.

“Access to affordable crop insurance allows American farmers to continue to provide affordable food for America and the world. Without it, I can guarantee you it wouldn’t take long for it to hit everyone’s pocketbook at the grocery store,” Culver wrote.

Culver called on lawmakers in Washington to also keep this in mind as they develop the next Farm Bill and to work together preserve a strong crop insurance program.

“After all, as the famous saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And that’s something none of us can afford,” Culver concluded.

G. Bradford Reeves, a longtime crop insurance agent from Leonardtown, Maryland, also discussed the importance of the crop insurance program in a letter to the editor that appeared in The Enterprise recently.

Reeves’ letter, “Keep crop insurance affordable in Southern Maryland,” recalls a time when crop insurance wasn’t as widely available and affordable as it is today.

“When bad weather hit, farmers had to ask Congress for help through ad-hoc disaster legislation. Taxpayers had to cover the cost and famers waited years for much-needed relief arrive,” Reeves wrote.

Reeves noted that public-private partnership of modern crop insurance eliminates some of the stress that comes from working in agriculture. But even with the modern crop insurance we have today, many farmers are still struggling to break even.

Reeves called on lawmakers to “remember this program is the only thing standing between bankruptcy and the ability to plant again for many Maryland growers. And they should appreciate that crop insurance is not a handout.”

Reeves noted farmers across the country have collectively spent $50 billion out of their own pockets in the last 17 years for coverage. They also absorb the first 25 percent of any loss before their coverage kicks in.

“Our farmers want to be out in the field planting the crops and harvesting them to sell at market for a reasonable price. The best way to give them the chance to do that is to keep crop insurance affordable and widely available in the next Farm Bill,” Reeves concluded.

Texas and Minnesota Farmers Praise Crop Insurance During Listening Sessions

The House Agriculture Committee has been crisscrossing the country this summer to visit with farmers and ranchers about their priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill. These listening sessions have been extensive, and Committee members have touted their usefulness.

Following the most recent forum in California this week, Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) addressed the sugar industry’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“One of the common themes on the listening sessions has been the importance of crop insurance,” he told the sugar producers. “Over and over and over we’ve had that conversation with folks.”

What’s Cropping Up was interested in what Agriculture Committee members have been hearing, so we watched nearly five hours of footage of sessions in San Angelo, Texas, and Morgan, Minnesota.

The Chairman’s assessment was correct. Crop insurance has been front and center. Below is a sampling of what was said about farmers’ primary risk management tool.

“Crop insurance is so vital to this state; so vital to every crop in (Texas). Whether it be corn, wheat, or cotton – all of the crops come very much into play when it comes to crop insurance.”
Russell Boening, president, Texas Farm Bureau

“Farmers, ag leaders, equipment dealers – everyone involved in agriculture – agrees that crop insurance should remain a viable and affordable tool for managing risk.”
Richard Gaona, president, Rolling Plains Cotton Growers

“How can I and my fellow farmers stay in business? Number 1 (priority) is crop insurance. … Crop insurance is indispensable.”
Ben Scholz, National Association of Wheat Growers

“With more frequent and intense weather patterns, rising interest rates and production costs and lower commodity prices, our risk has gone up while our balance sheets have gone down. We simply have to have affordable crop insurance to manage those risks.”
Kyle Peterson, chairman, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative

“Farmers borrow more in one year to produce a crop than most Americans do in a lifetime. Our growers, and our bankers, need strong risk management tools like crop insurance that are essential in order to secure operating loans to grow our crop.”
Kyle Peterson, chairman, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative

“When there’s a crop loss, there’s going to be a loss of income on the farm but with a good crop insurance program, and working capital, we may help them farm another year.”
Howard Olsen, AgCountry Farm Credit Services

“I was involved in a hailstorm this year where we lost the corn and the bean crop on one farm. With crop insurance, we’re not going to make any money at that this year, but I am going to be able to farm again next year because of risk management tools.”
Kevin Paap, president, Minnesota Farm Bureau

“Crop insurance – please protect it. Crop insurance is so vitally important. … It is a key component to obtaining credit.”
Bruce Peterson, Minnesota Corn Growers

“Crop insurance is so important to me. We have three families directly that drive income from our farm and if we did not have crop insurance we would not be able to survive.”
Noah Hultgren, Minnesota Corn Growers

ICYMI: US farmers rely on crop insurance

By: Rex Williamson
Published in The Columbus Dispatch
July 26, 2017

My family has been in agriculture in northwest Ohio for generations. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and dad farmed. I followed in their footsteps.

It was a great blessing. We were taught to love and appreciate hard work, and we learned to work as a family.

I carried this same work ethic into my own business 30 years ago, when I decided to leave the family farm and go into crop insurance full time. Today, my son runs the company and I help him. My wife is still involved, as is my daughter. It is a true family business and is rewarding for all of us.

I know firsthand that families devote vast amounts of financial resources, time and energy to growing the food that feeds the world. I also know firsthand that farming is extremely risky. The 1980s provided periods of challenging weather and prolonged low commodity prices.

Back then, farmers had to go to Congress and ask for ad-hoc relief bills. Taxpayers had to cover the cost and it often took years for farmers to get relief. It wasn’t a fair system so Congress asked the private insurance sector to help solve the problem.

Thankfully, we now have modern crop insurance that eliminates much of the stress that comes from competing with Mother Nature and volatile markets. Revenue coverage allows a farmer to market grain well before harvest and take advantage of profitable sales opportunities that are often not available at or after harvest. Revenue coverage would have been a great blessing for Ohio farmers during the 1980s, when ongoing low commodity prices took a huge toll on grain farms.

In my insurance business, I help farmers purchase policies that are uniquely tailored to their operations. When disaster strikes, a private-sector claims adjuster verifies the loss just like any other insurance product. Farmers pay their premiums, shoulder their deductibles and get checks in weeks, not years.

It is important for policymakers to understand the part about farmers paying for coverage. This is not a handout. Farmers across the country have collectively spent $50 billion out of their own pockets in the past 17 years for coverage. They also absorb the first 25 percent, on average, of any loss before their coverage kicks in.

Congress is starting its debate on the new Farm Bill, which sets out rules for crop insurance.

Our policymakers often agree that coverage for natural disasters like wind, hail and drought are critical and appropriate. But the debate often focuses on whether revenue coverage is really needed. I can assure you this product has become a critical tool that is equally as important as the amazing technological advancements that have made our farms the most efficient and productive in the world.

I urge Congress to keep in place the system of crop insurance we have today and allow it to expand to meet new demands.

ICYMI: This much is certain: For farmers, crop insurance is essential

There are a number of certainties in life. I know, for example, that every morning on my farm, the sun will rise in the east, and that every evening it will dip beneath the west horizon. And we know Iowa summers will be warm, the winters will be harsh and when the soil has thawed, spring growth will begin anew.

But a life of farming is also full of uncertainties. We can’t control the markets, nor the role Mother Nature will play in bringing our crops to harvest. Let me tell you, farmers are always in a constant negotiation with Mother Nature. Some years, Mother Nature is a farmer’s best friend. In other years, it can be our worst enemy. And in those years, there is no substitute for the risk protection that crop insurance provides.

Crop insurance allows farmers to pay a premium to alleviate some degree some of the uncertainties involved in farming. A crop insurance check will never come close to what a farmer can get from a bountiful harvest, but it does provide some peace of mind.

I’ve been farming for almost four decades and have witnessed firsthand the difference crop insurance can make. In fact, in 1977, my first year full-time farming, we suffered a major drought that resulted in a pitiful 28-bushel corn yield. Crop insurance and other assistance is what kept me going after that first disastrous year.

As president of the Iowa Farm Bureau for the past five years, and a member for many years prior to that, I also have also had the opportunity learn why crop insurance works. It succeeds, in no small part, because of its diverse participation. By spreading the chance of loss among a wide and varied group of insured farmers, premiums become less expensive for everyone. It’s a concept known as a “risk pool” and it is what makes things like auto insurance and homeowners insurance work, too. None of these programs would work if only a few folks participated.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Farm leaders across the country have worked with legislators effectively in recent years to strengthen crop insurance by expanding the size of the “risk pool” through encouraging and incentivizing increased participation. If you need evidence that this approached worked, just look at the numbers.

Today, almost 90 percent of farm acres in the U.S. are covered by crop insurance. It has become the primary safety net for today’s farmer.  Because of this, it has also become one of the biggest targets for anti-farm policy critics.

Crop insurance’s detractors — many whom have never negotiated with Mother Nature — often weave a tale about farmers resting on our laurels and laughing all the way to the bank. But that’s all it is: a tall tale. These critics are especially prone to calling out a policy known as revenue protection, which shields farmers in periods of extreme market volatility. But crop insurance, no matter what type, is far from a handout. And having revenue protection doesn’t necessarily equal an indemnity payment, even in years with low crop prices. In 2015, for example, of total indemnities paid to growers, including revenue protection as well as coverage from weather events, only 3 percent were the result of low prices.

The safety net that crop insurance provides is essential and is more important now than ever before. Not only does the average American farm feed about 168 people worldwide, but one in five Iowans go to work because of agriculture. But our farm economy has seen better days, with farm income projected to decrease again.

Farming is a tough job and perils are many, especially in today’s environment. Crop insurance provides a measure of stability and is an investment in both today’s farm economy and our future.

Without it, we’d have a whole lot less American farmers growing affordable food for America and the world. That much is certain.

Craig Hill of Milo is the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. His family grows corn and soybeans and raises livestock.

Farmer’s Daughter USA: Crop Insurance Vital to Keeping Family Farm Afloat This Year

In a blog post appearing in Ag Daily, Farmer’s Daughter USA founder Amanda Zaluckyj shines light on the critical role crop insurance has played in keeping her family’s southwest Michigan farm afloat in 2016— one of those years where “everything just seems to go wrong.”

Zaluckyj says the problems on her family’s farm started early on, with a wet spring and flooding that delayed planting. Then, when the growing season got underway, her family found themselves facing the opposite problem—bone-dry fields.

Because of the adverse weather conditions, their corn yields have taken a huge hit. While many folks are posting their impressive harvest pics to social media, there will be no proud pics from the Zaluckyj farm this year, nor a bumper crop.

“But thanks to crop insurance, one bad season doesn’t (necessarily) mean our farm is going to go under,” Zaluckyj writes.

Zaluckyj praises crop insurance as effective because of its unique mix of government and private enterprise and proper oversight, as well as wide availability and required conservation practices.

Zaluckyj notes that the success of the crop insurance program was recognized during passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

“While other farm support programs, such as direct payments, were completely eliminated or reduced, the crop insurance program was expanded. The 2014 changes included providing new options for farmers that face prolonged years of drought or other severe weather conditions,” she writes.

Crop insurance is essential to farming, Zaluckyj says, because unlike other businesses, these are more than market principles at work.

“Crop insurance will in no way be the same as having a good year with favorable weather conditions and high corn yields. But it will keep our family farm afloat. It means that (most of) the bills will get paid, we will still have a roof over our heads, and our family will survive to farm another year. To me, supporting, protecting, and preserving family farms is the mark of a good program,” Zaluckyj concludes.

To view Zaluckyj’s blog post in its entirety, click here.

Amanda Zaluckyj is a Michigan farmer’s daughter and a practicing attorney. She is founder of The Farmer’s Daughter USA blog, which aims help consumers better understand where our food comes from.

What They are Saying About Crop Insurance

With 297 million acres of farmland covered by crop insurance, this risk management tool has become an integral part of the farm safety net for American producers. Policies are available for more than 120 crops for farmers of all operation sizes in all states. This is a fact that farmers, policymakers, lenders, and other agricultural leaders all recognize and appreciate. Below is a look at what people are saying about crop insurance and its importance in maintaining strong agricultural production in this country.

“One of the least understood points about crop insurance is that it’s not just for farmers. That’s how we as farmers talk about it, that it’s a way to keep us in business when we suffer a catastrophic loss. That it’s a way to protect our yearly investment when things go wrong. That is all true, of course, but we don’t explain that it is also insurance for every consumer.” – Zach Hunnicutt, Nebraska farmer

“The important message we can talk about is, keep crop insurance whole. It is worth the investment of the federal government in helping farmers manage the risk.” – Todd Van Hoose, CEO & President, Farm Credit Council

“The truth is that crop insurance is a highly successful public-private partnership between the federal government and private insurance companies. It functions as a risk management tool for farmers to mitigate the numerous risks – financial, meteorological or the like – that they take to produce the finest food and fiber in the world.” – Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)

“The program keeps family farms in the family, even after a bad year, and provides a safety net that allows beginning farmers to pursue their dream of farming…. Federal crop insurance has become an essential part of the farm safety net due to its ability to provide dependable protection and grow with the needs of farmers and ranchers.” – Brandon Willis, Risk Management Agency Administrator

“Crop insurance and farm policy enables everyone – from the farmer to the banker to the taxpayer – to plan for those disasters and overcome them when they happen. If lawmakers continue to try and chip away at this safety net, farmers will not have the ability to survive. This is especially true for young, beginning farmers that have less access to credit and capital.” – Larry Kummer, Indiana farmer

“As farmers, we have no control over weather. We have no control over markets. We have no control over our foreign competitors. We cannot just turn our operations on or off. We have to take care of the land 365 days a year. We need a safety net when commodity prices fall. We need affordable and reliable crop insurance to protect our yearly investments.” – Jeremy Brown, Texas farmer

“We still have land and equipment payments to make regardless of whether we have a good or bad growing season, or whether a natural disaster wipes out our crops altogether. Crop insurance is something we purchase each year to manage this risk and we only receive an indemnity when we suffer a verifiable loss. Even then, it doesn’t make us whole, but it does soften the blow from a bad year.” – Lorraine Greco, California farmer

“This is why having a sufficient farm safety net — with crop insurance as the cornerstone — is more critical than ever. Crop insurance provides protection against the one thing that even the most resilient farmer cannot defeat — the wrath of Mother Nature.” – Scott VanderWal, Vice President of the American Farm Bureau Federation

ICYMI: Farm policy, crop insurance wise investments for all Americans

Although I was born and raised on a farm, the standing rule in our house was I had to spend two years after college pursuing other things. This was not to discourage me from continuing the family farming tradition. Rather, my father wanted to make certain I knew what kind of life I was signing up for. Perhaps another job elsewhere would provide me with greater financial security and stability than one that was beholden to the weather, markets, foreign subsidies, and even lawmakers in Congress.

I recognized the wisdom in my father’s counsel, but after a couple of years, I knew I wanted to get back to the farm. By then I was married and the thought of raising my family in a small, rural town, combined with returning to the family farm, appealed to me. I have been farming on my own for the past nine years.

What I have learned during this time is this: farming is an enormous game of risk management. It’s not if something bad is going to happen, it’s when. I was aware of this reality growing up, but I fully appreciate it now that I am working to sustain my own farm and support my own family.

Droughts, floods, hailstorms, high input prices, unpredictable commodity prices, the uncertainty of what will come out of Washington whether it is talk of cutting the farm safety net during the life of a farm bill or applying a new regulation that increases the cost of doing business; in addition to competing with foreign governments that cheat on their commitments to free trade and fair markets. These are the challenges that farmers face every year. It is a life that is rife with risk and uncertainty.

Today’s depressed farm economy is a prime example. Commodity prices are half what they were a few years ago while the cost of doing business has not followed the same trend. The financial situation for many farming operations all across the country has deteriorated fast and many lenders are nervous about providing financing.

This is why we need strong farm policy and crop insurance to help us manage things beyond our control like a natural disaster or a collapse in commodity prices.

One of the least understood points about crop insurance is that it’s not just for farmers. That’s how we as farmers talk about it, that it’s a way to keep us in business when we suffer a catastrophic loss. That it’s a way to protect our yearly investment when things go wrong.

That is all true, of course, but we don’t explain that it is also insurance for every consumer.

Just look at the drought of 2012 – one of the worst droughts on record – that devastated most of the country. There were times in our nation’s history when that kind of devastation would have put thousands of farmers out of business, especially beginning farmers like me, because farm policy and crop insurance wasn’t what it is today. But, that didn’t happen in 2012. Those risk management tools gave us the ability to stay in business, to make it another year. It provided banks with assurance that operating loans would be repaid despite large losses, and in the process it enabled us to keep a stable and affordable food supply for all American consumers because we were able to begin again.

What affects the farmer will affect the consumer. The tools that help farmers stay viable from year to year and decade to decade, allows consumers to get what they need and want in the grocery stores.

We’re all in this together. We have to remember that fact when Congress begins reauthorizing the next farm bill or some lawmaker in D.C. proposes an arbitrary and irresponsible cut to farm policy and crop insurance. These risk management tools serve us all, especially the next generation of farmers. They are a sound and wise investment for America.

Zach Hunnicutt is a fifth-generation farmer from Giltner who raises corn, soybeans, popcorn, seed corn and milo.  This op-ed appeared in the Grand Island Independent on June 17, 2016. 

Crop Insurance is a ‘Well-Run’ Public-Private Partnership

The role of federal crop insurance has grown significantly through the years and it is now the key risk management tool for farmers all across the country. With this greater role comes a greater responsibility to ensure the program is working as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Part of this responsibility includes making certain that when a farmer does suffer a verifiable loss and files a claim, the indemnity payment is processed quickly and sent to the right recipient with the correct amount. In other words, making certain that there are no improper payments. This is important for the farmer who is counting on timely assistance after a catastrophic event and it’s important for taxpayers who demand program integrity.

And, new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) reveals that crop insurance stands as an example of a successful, properly-managed public-private partnership.

During the recent annual meeting of crop insurers, RMA administrator Brandon Willis announced that the error payment rate has improved by more than 50 percent from 5.5 percent in 2014 to 2.2 percent in 2015. By way of comparison, the average error rate government-wide was 4 percent.

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

An improper payment occurs when funds go to the wrong recipient, the right recipient receives the incorrect amount of funds, including being paid too much or too little, or the recipient uses funds in an improper manner. And, as Willis noted, many errors are simply rooted in data entry and reporting mistakes.

Perennial critics of farm policy have often cast crop insurance in a negative light pointing to any error payment rate as an excuse to cut, or even, gut the program. As a result, RMA, crop insurers, and even Congress have worked together to improve the error payment rate through the years.

In fact, as former RMA administrator, Kenneth D. Ackerman recently wrote in a blog post, “RMA’s eye-catching new 2.2 percent ‘improper payment’ rate for 2015 was no fluke. Rather, it was the product of a long-term commitment and years of work by a wide range of people who deserve credit for sticking to it.”

Going forward, the crop insurance industry will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the accountability and integrity of this critical risk management tool that farmers and consumers rely upon to maintain a steady and affordable food and fiber supply.

CROP INSURANCE IN ACTION: Greg Wegis, Bakersfield, California

Greg Wegis’ great-grandfather established their multi-generational farm in the early 1900s and the have been farming in Bakersfield, California ever since. Wegis grows almonds, pistachios, tomatoes, corn, wheat, alfalfa and cherries and he plans to start growing table grapes in the near future.

“I have a passion for what I do,” Wegis said. “Being raised around my grandfather and my dad, just talking about it. It’s a lifestyle; producing food for people to eat and nourish their bodies. It’s a good feeling and an occupation I think that’s very noble.”

Today Wegis’ farm employs 80 people full-time to keep everything running smoothly. Wegis said he prides himself on being a family-oriented business, knowing each one of his employees and their family.

“We take care of our people, because they take care of us,” Wegis said. “They take care of our land and we treat them as an extension of our family. I think that is unique in the multi-generational family farming business; you don’t find that in a lot of other industries.”

Not only does Wegis feel his employees deserve credit for the hard work they provide, but he further recognized that his farming operation wouldn’t be possible without all of the supporting companies that aid them in their day-to-day operations. This includes companies that help with tractor and machinery parts, processing and manufacturing, sales, bankers, insurance agents, fuel, transportation companies and “the list goes on and on.”

According to Wegis, farm income in California is a $47 billion industry. The county he resides in, Kern County, is responsible for providing a little over $6 billion. Translating that into the amount of jobs agriculture provides within Kern County, Wegis said it’s “somewhere around 70,000 jobs.”

“Just the almond industry alone, employs about 110,000 individuals in the Central Valley,” Wegis explained. “And we’re connected. So whatever happens to us, in turn affects them, either in food prices or food availability.”

Minus a great winter in 2002 and 2011, the area Wegis resides in has been in a drought for over four years. To combat this issue, Wegis said their farming operations rely on two separate solutions to stay sustainable and in business.

“With our farm, we have around 10,000 acre-feet of water that we’ve contracted for. My grandfather and his generation helped build the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, (bringing) us water from Northern California to help us be more sustainable south of the Delta Area.”

In order to take part in the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, farmers in the California region must pay a set amount of money regardless if they receive the designated amount of water or not (water supply levels rely on what is available each year in the area’s designated reservoir, which could lead to the possible shortages). By doing this, Wegis said it has helped “replenish the aquifers” that were once depleted and helps keep farms in the region sustainable.

“We’re the breadbasket of the world here in Central Valley, as far as fruits, vegetables, nuts and milk,” Wegis concluded. “The United States relies heavily on us to produce that food. If we have to reduce our footprint, we cannot farm the acres we used to, and that’s definitely going to affect everyone. And that’s the message we’re trying to [get] everybody [to] understand.”

Wegis said he insures their crops to protect them against natural disasters, diseases or insects that they have little control over. “Without crop insurance it would not allow us to farm.” In the end, Wegis attributes crop insurance as a vital tool in agricultural risk management. “It’s just a crucial tool to circumvent the ups and downs of Mother Nature and agriculture,” Wegis expressed.

ICYMI: Crop Insurance Can Help Keep Multi-Generational Farms Within the Family

My farm has been in my family since the mid-1800s. I have seen firsthand how farming has changed over the decades. It is certainly more expensive to farm than when my parents and grandparents and great-great grandparents farmed the land, but one thing hasn’t changed in more than 150 years: farming is an unpredictable business.

Farmers can’t predict the future, but we can make a genuine effort to be smart, informed business owners. We try to make the right decisions and work with what we have. The problem is when ‘what we have to work with’ is ripped out from underneath us. Without crop insurance, many farmers wouldn’t be able to keep farming. Cutting crop insurance would be pulling the rug from underneath agriculture.

Before the modern day crop insurance system, farmers relied on ad hoc disaster relief payments. This was a costly and unpredictable option for all of us – the government, the taxpayer and the farmer, who in some cases may have received a payment too late to avoid bankruptcy.

Congress agreed that crop insurance was the best risk management tool for farmers. In the 2014 Farm Bill, they implemented a crop insurance system that ensured farmers would have access to affordable crop insurance while removing the risk from the taxpayer. In stride, farmers have made operating decisions with the assumption that all the policies of this bill would be in place until the Farm Bill expires in 2018.

Now, in 2015, this proven risk management tool, crop insurance, is in front of the firing squad. I’m not certain why some Members of Congress are willing to turn their backs on farmers now. Washington is nearly 900 miles away from my family farm. From that distance, it may be easy to assume that cuts to farm programs, like crop insurance, would have no effect on farmers, but that’s not an accurate picture.

Crop insurance is the only safety net that most farmers have anymore. Nearly all the cropland in the United States is protected by crop insurance. In Wisconsin, a majority of crop acres are insured, including grain commodities and specialty crops.

Insurance not only allows farmers to face natural disasters and damaging production years without losing everything, but it provides assurance that we can make payments to our banks. The same way any person in this country cannot get a house loan or a car loan without proof of insurance, agricultural banks want the guarantee that farmers can make their payments.

The agriculture economy is struggling. Farm income continues to decline, crop prices are down and inputs continue to rise. The 2015-16 farm year may be a make or break year for many farmers who are ending the year in the red. Forty years ago, a farmer could lose a crop one year and still farm the next. Nowadays one crop loss could end someone’s farming career. In the current state of agriculture, we can’t afford to have another leg chopped off our stool that’s already leaning.

My wife and I have risked our livelihood to maintain the farm for our children and grandchildren, just as my parents and grandparents did for us. Without crop insurance, we would have to quit farming. For the events we can’t predict, crop insurance ensures we won’t lose our multi-generational family farm.

Darrell Crapp is a farmer from Lancaster, Wisconsin. He farms in partnership with his two sons.  This op-ed appeared in the Prairie du Chien Courier Press on January 20, 2016.

Hollis, Oklahoma farmer: Affordable crop insurance is critical

I started farming and ranching with my father and grandfather in southwest Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle 40 years ago, and I am the fourth generation to farm cotton, peanuts, wheat, corn, milo and cattle on our family’s land.

I was 17 when I started farming on my own, and although I have four decades of experience under my belt, the many issues we face today on the family farm — worked by me, my son, my brother-in-law and my son-in-law — are no less challenging than they were when I began. In most careers, things get easier as you move along. In farming, since the weather and prices are so unpredictable, it really never gets easier.

With few risk management tools available in the early days, it could take years to recover from a hailstorm, an early freeze or any of the many other natural perils that could be thrown at you. When I first learned of crop insurance, I didn’t purchase it because premiums were unaffordable and margins were too slim to afford it. Thankfully, Congress made crop insurance more available and affordable — by partially discounting the premium — and now I wouldn’t farm without it.

Since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, crop insurance is the best tool farmers have to manage risks and revenue. It’s not cheap, but it is something that we budget for annually and can’t imagine not having.

The key to crop insurance’s success has been its affordability, its availability and its viability. Last year, farmers spent nearly $4 billion on crop insurance policies that protected 90 percent of planted cropland in the United States. I’d bet that many of the farmers in our area wouldn’t be surviving the current drought — which started in 2011 — if it wasn’t for crop insurance.

Despite the fact that agriculture’s safety net programs took a huge cut in the last farm bill, some in Congress seem to think we need to give more. I wonder if some of those people have any idea where their food and clothes come from or what it takes to get it from the farm to their plate or closet.

It seems almost daily that someone in Congress is proposing a bill to cut the premium support on crop insurance. It would not serve anyone to cut these risk management tools to farmers, as they allow farmers to concentrate on producing higher-yielding, better-quality crops that reduce the costs to the consumer.

Crop insurance is not a gift but insurance, just like homeowner’s insurance, that farmers buy. And like homeowner’s insurance, we don’t collect a dime without a verifiable loss and paying a deductible. Without crop insurance, many farmers couldn’t get financed and it would be almost impossible for a beginning farmer to get started.

Crop insurance is critical in meeting these challenges, and guarantees the American consumer a safe, affordable supply of quality food and fiber that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

Kelly Horton lives in Hollis, Oklahoma.  This op-ed appeared in The Oklahoman on May 17, 2015.

Why Farmers Need Crop Insurance

Matt HuieI always knew I was going to be a farmer. I grew up learning from my grandfather who turned me loose and gave me a lot of responsibility on his farm from a young age. I was driving machinery by the time I was 10-years-old and running my own harvest crew by the time I was 14.

When I was in school, I entertained being a veterinarian and farming on the side mainly because people told me it was a tough life and I wouldn’t be able to make a living.

That kind of talk only made me more determined, so when I came home from college I started farming full-time despite the fact that I barely had a dollar to my name and farming is a capital-intensive business.

I remember the first time I went to borrow money, my banker asked me right off if

I had crop insurance and how much was the coverage. I was prepared to answer those questions as crop insurance was then, and remains today, my primary risk management tool. I wouldn’t think of trying to grow a crop without it.

It’s essential — especially for young farmers, like I was at the time, just starting an operation.

It enables farmers to get financing and also enables them to survive a major catastrophic weather event.

Young farmers are particularly vulnerable to such risks because they are more leveraged than more established farmers. They can’t afford a major hit in their finances or a year without any income.

Just look at my state of Texas where we have suffered a historic drought for the last five years. 2012 and 2013 were particularly bad.

Without crop insurance, this sustained drought would have wiped out an entire generation of farmers. They would not have had the means to make it to another year without something to at least help cover part of the losses. That’s why it is critical that crop insurance remain affordable and widely available.

Thankfully the 2014 Farm Bill strengthened crop insurance and added provisions to help beginning farmers. But, the critics of farm policy, including some lawmakers in Congress, never seem to rest and are already clamoring once again for cuts.

They would be wise to take note of an alarming trend that puts the average age of a U.S. farmer at 58. Moreover, in 2012, the number of beginning farmers – those operating fewer than 10 years – was down 20 percent from 2007.

My desire to farm at such a young age is the exception, not the rule. Many young people can’t stomach the risk that is involved and have no desire to try.

Cuts to the farm safety net only make an inherently risky business, riskier. The expense of raising crops, the perils of weather-related disasters, and the low returns on investment, are enough to make anyone run in the other, more secure direction.

Now is not the time to create barriers at the starting point of farming and ranching. Now is the time to give certainty to young people with farm policy they can afford and count on.

Matt Huie farms cotton, corn, sorghum, and livestock in Southeast Texas near Corpus Christi.  This op-ed appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on May 17, 2015. 

CROP INSURANCE IN ACTION: Craig Corbett, Soda Springs, Idaho

Craig Corbett farms malt and seed barley, along with some wheat on roughly 2,800 acres in Soda Springs, Idaho. Corbett has been farming for more than 30 years and loves what he does for a living. “It’s challenging, it seems like something new pops up every day, and it’s great being in a production-oriented business like farming,” Corbett said.

Corbett explained that when crop insurance first came out, it didn’t work well and many farmers opted not to purchase it.  He said that many commodity organizations and the crop insurance industry have worked over the years with USDA to produce crop insurance products that are effective for producers in different parts of the country, growing vastly different crops.

“It’s hard to have a program that works for one area – like Idaho—while also working for different crops in different areas of the country as well,” Corbett said.   “And the fact that modern crop insurance can do that is a big, big plus.”

Corbett added that while he’s never had a “crop catastrophe,” he has used his policies on a number of occasions, like after going through a really bad hail storm.  “Crop insurance is never going to make you money, but it can keep you from losing your shirt,” he said.

He noted that despite the fact he spends more than $20,000 annually purchasing crop insurance, on most years he doesn’t file a claim. “And every one of those years it was money well spent,” he said.

Corbett said that while he can protect himself against price fluctuations with marketing tools, “the one thing that we can’t have is nothing to sell.”

“If I don’t have anything to market, then I’m done,” he said.   “So if you’re a producer, crop insurance is where you get the most protection for your buck.”

The 2014 Farm Bill made crop insurance the centerpiece of farmers’ risk management tools, and incorporated changes that strengthened crop insurance.  “If the Farm Bill was going to be changed, it needed to change in the direction of helping farmers better manage risk, and the new Farm Bill certainly moved in that direction,” Corbett added.