Farming in central Ohio tends to be very even-keel, largely due to the great soil we sit on and the favorable climatic conditions in most years. Local crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat, tend to come in at fairly predictable yields, offering local farmers some peace of mind in a business known for its risk.
That whole equation was turned on its head in 2012, which will be forever seared in the minds of those of us who work the land as the Great Drought of 2012. Thankfully, most farmers here in central Ohio, like me, purchase crop insurance every year.
Crop insurance is a public-private partnership whereby farmers purchase individual policies with their own money and tailored to their own risk tolerance.
Folks who are not involved directly in farming don’t understand the enormous costs — for fertilizer, seed, machinery, labor and herbicide — that must be shouldered by farmers in order to get a crop in the ground. Farmers spend tens of thousands of dollars, then pray for good weather. If it all comes together, you’ve got a bountiful harvest and you’re set for the next year. If it doesn’t, hopefully you have crop insurance.
Now, crop insurance is also no small expense. In 2013, our farming operation’s crop-insurance premium totaled more than my wife’s annual salary as a local teacher. And in most years, we don’t make a claim. It’s just like homeowner’s insurance — you hope you never need to make a claim.
During the 2012 drought, farmers talked about how awful things were, but, curiously, none mentioned the possibility of losing their farms. That’s because they had all purchased crop insurance, knowing that if the bottom fell out, they had a backup plan.
And thankfully, for consumers in the U.S. and abroad, those farmers were back again in 2013, producing the healthiest, best and most affordable food in the world.
Matthew King is a farmer from Radnor, Ohio. This op-ed appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on October 18, 2014.