Crop Insurance in Action: Bill Christ, Metamora, Illinois

For those who have ever visited America’s Corn Belt, they know that the region has soil and climatic conditions for growing corn and soybeans.   “And our farmers are hardworking, committed and driven to produce record crops every year,” notes farmer and crop insurance agent Bill Christ.

In the past, when drought would occasionally come, “many hardworking farmers watched their crops wither and their dreams blow away with the dust, because they didn’t have a backup plan in place in case something like this happened,” said Christ.

Today, most farmers purchase crop insurance, which ensures that when drought or flood or early freeze visits our region, farmers have some level of protection to recoup the tens of thousands of dollars they’ve spent trying to raise a crop.

“The droughts in the 1980s taught the area farmers that if they relied on disaster payments and subsidized federal loans to bounce back from natural disasters, they were going to eventually fall on their faces,” he said.   On the other hand, crop insurance, which today protects 94 percent of planted cropland in the U.S, combines the resources of the federal government with the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the private sector.

Crop insurance allows individual farmers to purchase the coverage they need, tailored to their farms, their financial standing and their tolerance to risk.  “Crop insurance has become indispensable because farming is so expensive that banks are afraid to make production loans without a crop insurance policy as collateral,” said Christ.   “That way, if the crop fails, the bank, and the farmer, have something to fall back on.”

Christ says he’ll never forget the drought of 2012.   “Farmers calmly walked their fields, yet inside, we all knew we were heading for big trouble,” he said.  Well before the harvest, the corn was burning up and the plants themselves were stunted.   In some parts of the state, corn crops were condemned but the plants were so small they could hardly be chopped for silage.

But unlike previous droughts I had witnessed, there was a sense of optimism in the farmers I knew.  “They were more upbeat and positive because they had adequate protection and that they could bounce back,” he said.  “And guess what?  Everyone bounced back in 2013 and produced an enormous harvest for the nation.”

In 2014, Illinois farmers spent $302 million out to purchase 124,000 crop insurance policies protecting 19 million acres valued at nearly $11 billion.

Christ notes that we live in one of the richest nations in the world and virtually anything you want to eat is right at your fingertips.  “But that doesn’t occur by accident,” he says.  “It’s possible due to good farm policies and hardworking farmers, who together produce the cheapest and most reliable food in the world.”