Don’t Hurt the Farmers That Feed Us

It’s one of the great ironies of our time that the richest nation on earth, with the most productive agriculture sector the world has ever seen, would have so many citizens who live with food insecurity, the fear of not knowing where theirnext meal is coming from. The fact that many of these citizens are children makes it even worse.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been a great advocate for the needy and for healthy eating, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that she’s doing everything she can to ensure that federal support for food stamp benefits are fully funded. Unfortunately, to pay for her recent amendment, she’s cutting the only viable risk management tool available to the very New York farmers who grow healthy food for the poor: crop insurance.

Crop insurance is a private-public partnership that has worked miracles in serving as a backstop to farmers and ranchers after disaster strikes, as it did last year here at home. Farmers purchase crop insurance, which is partially underwritten by federal government, so that when Mother Nature serves up a nasty surprise, there is something in place to ensure that come next year, farmers will be able to plant yet again and feed America.

2011 was a tough year for many of our areas farmers. Tropical Storm Irene hit right as farmers were harvesting their crops, wiping out an entire year’s work for many as their fields were swallowed under several feet of water. New York farmers growing apples, corn, grapes, peas and peaches, as well as many other crops, suffered enormous losses and thankfully collected nearly $45 million in indemnity payments from their private crop insurance policies.

And 2012 has already presented its challenges to our local farmers, as many in the Hudson Valley and the western part of the state lost some or their entire apple and other fruit crops to a late spring freeze. Thankfully, again, crop insurance was there to keep them from losing their farms. In fact, for those who argue that Americans, especially the disadvantaged, need to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, crop insurance is the only viable safety net available to farmers who grow that produce.

Mike Southcott is a crop insurance agent based in Albion, New York.