Andrew Bowman is a fifth-generation farmer from Oneida, Illinois, in the western part of the state. Bowman, who is in the family business with his father, farms 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans, although they are also looking into new crops. “But corn and soybeans are definitely our bread and butter,” says Bowman.
The drought of 2012 was especially hard on the state of Illinois, with farmers there seeing some of the highest losses in the country. But there were a few counties in the western part of the state that escaped the worst of it. “In 2012, when everyone in Illinois was suffering under an incredible drought, we were in a garden spot,” said Bowman, who noted that while their yields were slightly down, the high commodity prices made up for it.
Bowman says that the worst year his farm has experienced in recent history was in 2005, which saw a very regionalized, yet extreme drought in western Illinois, with the rest of the Corn Belt being relatively unaffected. It was the first year since the drought of 1988 when farmers saw Spider Mites in their soybeans. Bowman notes that the low yields combined with the low prices that year was a double whammy for farmers in the drought area.
“Although farmers are optimists, I have to say that you couldn’t help but feel a little hopeless that year, because outside of this 10-county area, we knew that everyone else was doing quite well,” he said. “So we were not only facing low yields but low prices as well,” he said, adding, “I found myself looking to next year and praying for a better season.”
And that is just one of the reasons why Bowman is not only a farmer who purchases crop insurance every year, but one who sells it as well.
Bowman said that for him, crop insurance is peace of mind that yields rewards on a number of fronts. “Crop insurance is a marketing tool, a risk management tool, and working capital insurance.”
Bowman explained that crop insurance’s role as “working capital insurance” is one of the most critical, yet overlooked aspects of the policy. He said that in good years, farmers in other countries must bank much of their profits so they have reserves for the inevitable bad year, or years. “That money, sitting in the banks for years, does very little to increase the productive output of a farm, let alone generate jobs or wealth in the surrounding community,” he said.
By contrast, since U.S. farmers can purchase crop insurance to ensure that they have a backstop when disaster hits, they are able to reinvest their profits in their farms, in the community and in the rural economy. “Crop insurance allows me to wisely invest in my future, as well as the future of my community and local economy,” he said, noting that one in four jobs in Illinois are linked to agriculture
Bowman says that as a crop insurance agent, it’s relatively easy to sell a product that he personally believes in. “My dad has been an agent for quite some time,” he said. “I sell crop insurance because I believe in it, it’s a good risk management tool and it’s a wonderful example of a public private partnership,” he added.
Bowman noted that what Americans need to understand about supporting the farm sector is that farmers not only provide food security, but national security as well. “Supporting the ag sector not only supports the greater economy, but it has national security interests as well, in addition to helping promote a positive trade balance,” he said. “And let’s not forget that we also need to help feed the world.”