A pair of soybean farmers in America’s heartland are urging Congress to leave crop insurance alone as it debates the 2018 Farm Bill with columns published recently in newspapers in both states.
Scott Metzger, who farms with his family at Metzger Family Farms in Williamsport, Ohio, offered his story of decades of heartbreak that came from a single storm in a piece published in the Circleville Herald.
His family has been farming in south central Ohio for six generations, he said in the piece. He is proud of his heritage and knew from a young age he wanted to farm.
“When I was 5, on a July day in 1980, a storm tore through our community in Williamsport,” he wrote. “The things I remember about that day are the memories of a child: My toy tractor blown down the road. The roof ripped off the house. The shop flattened. All of that could be repaired. But in our fields was a disaster that I’ve been dealing with now for my entire adult life.”
The family ended up with crushing debt that year. They had to sell farm land to stay in business. It took 36 years to buy all of it back.
“While the story is sad enough, there’s a tragic piece of irony to add,” Metzger noted. “That year, back in 1980, a man came by the farm selling crop insurance. He was one of the first in our area to offer it. My family declined. We had never needed it before and didn’t see a reason to spend on it then.”
Today, crop insurance is part of the Metzger family farm’s business plan. He said modern and effective products like Harvest Price Option allow his farm to forward contract and not be as concerned if they have a short crop in the summer and need to buy back contracts.
Metzger is on the Ohio Soybean Association Board of Trustees and is a director with the American Soybean Association.
“As Congress debates the Farm Bill, I hope lawmakers will remember my family’s story and continue to support the modern crop insurance farmers have come to rely on,” he concluded.
In Kentucky, farmer Caleb Ragland penned an op-ed that was published in the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown not far from where he farms.
His family has been farming in Kentucky for nine generations.
“At 31, I’m already a lifer,” he wrote in the piece. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than growing soybeans, corn and winter wheat and raising pigs in a pretty part of the world.”
But, Ragland explained that the business of farming has been tough in recent years.
Nationally, farm incomes are down 50 percent compared to what they were 5 years ago putting everyone in a financial pinch.
“Grain prices are down,” he said. “So are beef, pork, poultry and milk. Couple all of that with the fact that most of your farmland operations, on any scale, have substantial debt loads, and it’s easy to see how people are struggling in farm country.”
Ragland is optimistic, though. The growing population will mean a good future for farmers if smart policy decisions are made in Washington, he concluded.
And, leaving crop insurance unchanged in the 2018 Farm Bill, including Harvest Price Option, is a smart choice.
“HPO lets us forward market our crops,” he wrote. “It protects revenue, not just yields, offering the equivalent of ‘replacement value’ coverage on a car. And as farmers, we’re willing to pay extra for the protection HPO offers because it gives you the faith you need put your borrowed money in the ground and know you’ll be able to pay it back.”
Ragland’s request of Congress was simple: Don’t fix wasn’t isn’t broken.