In the days surrounding the release of a proposed White House budget that includes cuts to crop insurance, farm leaders are taking to newspaper opinion pages across the country to defend the successful program.
Jimmy Dodson, chairman of the Farm Credit Bank of Texas, stressed the importance of crop insurance to both farmers and lenders in a guest editorial appearing in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on May 22.
“When it comes to obtaining credit, the vast majority of crop loans incorporate crop insurance in their operation plans, and coverage is a requirement for many loans,” Dodson wrote. “Without it, credit would be limited to those with the strongest balance sheets. Given the recent price trends and outlook for commodity prices, there just aren’t many farmers who fall into this category.”
Dodson, who raises cotton, corn, wheat, hay and grain sorghum on his family farm near Corpus Christi, stressed that crop insurance is especially important for beginning farmers, who will be critical to the future of agriculture.
“I am 64 years old, which is the average age of a farmer in the U.S. As baby boomers retire, we are relying on the next generation of farmers to follow in our footsteps. They will need crop insurance to do that,” Dodson said.
Dodson also highlighted the benefits of crop insurance to both the rural economy and taxpayers.
“The current downswing in agriculture means the next Farm Bill will be more important than ever. American farmers are the most efficient in the world, but we need strong farm policies that give us the right tools, like reliable credit and a vibrant crop insurance program, in order to keep meeting our growing global food, fiber and energy needs,” Dodson concluded.
Bill Pearson, a longtime crop insurance agent in Sibley, Iowa, authored a guest column that appeared in the Des Moines Register over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Pearson’s article, “Don’t Drain the Crop Insurance Pool,” discussed the unintended consequences of proposals to cap insurance discounts or even excluding larger — and less risky — farms altogether.
Pearson likened crop insurance to swimming pool, noting that the deeper and wider the pool — that is, the more people covered — the more insurers can spread risk, which makes insurance cheaper for everybody who’s swimming.
“By removing your most established farms, and all the acreage associated with those farms, you are doing the same thing as excluding the healthiest people from life insurance,” Pearson wrote. “You are draining the pool, making insurance costlier and less available for everyone left.”
Pearson pointed out that America hasn’t always had a good crop insurance system to protect farmers from the whims of Mother Nature. And that in the past, farmers had to go to Congress to ask for disaster aid. Taxpayers had to foot the whole bill and farmers often waited years for help to arrive.
“Crop insurance works well because it is a tool available to farmers of all sizes in all geographic regions. Congress should not upset this delicate balance by discriminating against one group of growers and weakening their ability to manage risk. Doing so would throw small farmers, and ultimately taxpayers, in the deep end,” Pearson concluded.
Two days later, an opinion piece by New York crop insurance agent and farmer Steve Van Voorhis appeared in The Buffalo News.
Van Voorhis’ column focused on the role of crop insurance in protecting the state’s agriculture economy. He noted that part of the reason so many farmers in his sate have confidence in the crop insurance program is because many improvements have been made in recent years. The last Farm Bill, for example, took steps to make crop insurance more affordable and available to specialty crop growers, organic producers and young farmers.
He also noted that New York farmers appreciate the flexibility of the crop insurance program. Policies can be tailored to each farm’s crops, production methods and risk and each farmer’s risk tolerance.
Van Voorhis had a message for the critics of crop insurance, as well.
“Sometimes folks are quick to criticize crop insurance because they don’t realize that, like agriculture, the program touches every state in the nation. It has proven itself to be our most effective risk-management tool,” Van Voorhis wrote. “Let’s allow this program to keep it working, not just for the farmers who put everything on the line year after year, but for the solvency of our state and national agriculture economies as well.”