NCIS Responds to Chicago Tribune Editorial

It is unfortunate that the Chicago Tribune would choose to criticize crop insurance, a new hybrid of private-public risk management that is saving taxpayers lots of money and shielding them from risk (“Farm Bill? Later. Political gridlock may save U.S. from bad farm legislation,” Editorial, Sept. 17).

In the past, agriculture disasters like this year’s historic drought would have resulted in huge and costly agriculture disaster bills. In fact, since 1989, 42 such bills cost taxpayers $70 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Crop insurance represents a whole new chapter in agriculture risk management. First and foremost, farmers must purchase a policy — ensuring that they have “skin in the game” — to be eligible to collect an indemnity for damages. In 2011, farmers paid more than $4.5 billion in premiums.

Since the emergence of the modern-day crop-insurance system, spending on farm safety-net programs has gone down by roughly 36 percent. Crop insurance alone has had its funding reduced by $12 billion since just 2008.

Last year’s string of natural disasters lasting the entire year was a case study in the efficacy of crop insurance. Despite freezes, floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, there was not a single call fordisaster assistance from America’s farmers.

Why is that? Because 84 percent of eligible farmland, some 266 million acres growing food, feed, fuel and fiber for this nation and the world, was protected by crop-insurance policies.

Crop insurance has become the most lauded risk management tool by farmers, bankers and many elected officials of both parties for onereason: It works.

In today’s politically charged environment, there are few things that both Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. Yet despite thatfact, members from both sides of the aisle have voted for a strong crop-insurance policy as a cornerstone risk-management tool in the 2012 Farm Bill.

— Thomas P. Zacharias, president, National Crop Insurance Services, Overland Park, Kan. (September 25, 2012)