The future of farming depends on the next generation taking up the plow, so to speak. But the barriers to entry can be prohibitive – and prohibitively expensive.
Costs for necessary items such as machinery, seeds, or land are high and add up quickly. Not to mention it can be difficult to obtain lines of credit in the first place without access to substantial capital or insurance giving banks the peace of mind that farmers will be able to repay loans.
And all of that sweat and equity could be wiped out in the time it takes a tornado to touch down or floodwaters to rise.
Thankfully, federal crop insurance provides a valuable safety net.
Farming can be an especially daunting task for those that are a part of traditionally underserved communities, such as beginning farmers or veterans.
Many of these farmers tend to lack the equity and liquid assets necessary to begin farming, and therefore rely on loans. And most lenders require crop insurance coverage to act as a backstop should disaster strike.
Congress recognized the importance of supporting these farmers and took steps to increase their access to crop insurance with the 2018 Farm Bill.
Legislators expanded premium discounts for Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policies to those with ten years or less farming experience. Twenty-seven percent of American farmers fell into this category during the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
In addition, the Farm Bill reduced regulatory burdens for those with WFRP policies by allowing waivers for expanding operations, especially for small and beginning farmers, reducing record keeping requirements for small farmers and minimizing paperwork.
USDA data indicates that the rural population of post-9/11 veterans is growing quickly and provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill seek to increase access for those veterans who wish to enter farming. Congress included veteran farmers and ranchers as part of a new definition of underserved producers, allowing them to take advantage of improved crop insurance benefits such as additional premium discounts.
And the Farm Bill mandated that the Risk Management Agency produce an Underserved Producer Report every three years in order to continue identifying ways the federal government can reform and improve these programs in order to increase participation and better serve these communities.
In total, these reforms will help give new and veteran farmers the tools they need to effectively manage their risks.
National Crop Insurance Services recently spoke with young Iowa farmer Colin Johnson who emphasized the important role crop insurance plays in ensuring he can continue farming, saying that he “probably wouldn’t have lasted two years without… crop insurance support.”
Farming can be difficult. But access to affordable and dependable crop insurance will help pave the way for future generations of American farmers.