Farming in Central Ohio, much like the rest of the traditional corn belt, tends to be a business that’s very even keel. The soil is great and the climate is just about perfect for growing corn, soybeans and wheat. Because of this, bushels per acres are fairly predictable from year to year.
“That whole equation was turned on its head in 2012, which was the worst year that I had ever experienced as a farmer and will be forever seared in the minds of those of us who work the land as the Great Drought of 2012,” said farmer Matthew King. “Thankfully, like me, most farmers here in Central Ohio purchase crop insurance every year.”
King notes that they’ve purchased crop insurance his entire life, as do most farmers he knows. He says folks who are not involved directly in farming don’t understand the enormous economies of scale – the prices of fertilizer, seed, machinery, labor and herbicide – that must be paid by farmers in order to get a crop in the ground.
“You literally have to lay out tens of thousands of dollars and then pray for good weather, and if that all comes together, you’ve got a bountiful harvest and you’re set for the next year,” he explains. “If it doesn’t come together, then hopefully you have crop insurance.”
King notes that crop insurance is also no small expense. “In fact, in 2013, our farming operations crop insurance premium totaled more than my wife’s annual salary as a local school teacher,” he said.
In most years, crop insurance is just a net cost of doing business for us, since we rarely make a claim. It’s just like homeowner’s insurance in that you don’t insure your home in the hopes that it burns down but rather in the hope that it never burns down.
“That’s why it’s so aggravating that during the 2012 drought, some outside groups opposed to farm policy charged that ‘farmers were praying for drought, not praying for rain,’ implying that we’d rather collect an indemnity check than get a decent harvest,” noted King. “Let me set the record straight on that one: I would take a better crop than a crop insurance payment every time, because well-marketed grain can make me far more money than any crop insurance indemnity ever would,” he said.
King notes that during the 2012 drought, farmers in the area talked about how awful things were in their fields, how much their harvest was down due to extreme heat and lack of moisture, but curiously, none of them 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.”