Crop insurance products were improved in the recent farm bill because Congress recognized that these products are a necessity for farmers, regardless of size. To me, a federally-supported crop insurance policy is defensible because a portion of the product’s cost is borne by the farmer.
I am one of those farmers. I raise cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and cattle in north Mississippi. Crop insurance is my most important risk management tool absent the direct payments that were available under previous farm law programs. Effective crop insurance products have allowed Congress to move away from providing ad hoc disaster assistance, thus reducing pressure on the federal budget.
We all have witnessed how farmers across the country have suffered from historic droughts, flooding, hail and other severe weather. Many cotton producers, in fact, have incurred particularly excessive yield losses the past three years from these weather events.
Without a doubt, the volatility of weather and commodity markets necessitates government assistance with crop insurance premiums so that our nation’s farmers have access to affordable and dependable crop insurance products.
Regarding cotton, the Stacked Income Protection Plan, known as STAX, is an insurance product that was included in the 2014 federal farm law and is available to upland cotton producers beginning with the 2015 crop year.
The U.S. cotton industry believes that STAX, like all other insurance products, should not be subjected to limits or eligibility restrictions. With cotton’s safety net now comprised solely by the marketing loan program and crop insurance, the U.S. cotton industry is especially concerned by any attempt to eliminate or place limits on key crop insurance tools.
Farm policy generally, and cotton policy specifically, was substantially reformed, funding reduced, and market orientation increased in the 2014 farm law, so now is not the time for further changes that will only undermine production agriculture’s risk management foundation.
The bottom line is that America’s farmers need an affordable and dependable insurance policy if they are going to continue producing safe, abundant, and affordable food and fiber – which is essential to our national security. Affordable and dependable crop insurance will provide the stability needed for U.S. cotton producers – and undergird an industry that provides employment for some 200,000 Americans and produces direct business revenue of more than $27 billion. Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 420,000 workers with economic activity well in excess of $100 billion.
Sledge Taylor is a farmer from Como, Miss., and chairman of the Memphis-based National Cotton Council of America. This op-ed appeared in the Southeast Farm Press on May 21, 2015.