HEADLINES & MEDIA
By Tim Totheroh
By the end of harvest claims last year, I visited more than 200 farms, meeting with the farmers, inspecting their losses and adjusting their crop insurance claims. It was sad at times because farmers take crop losses personally.
I’ve never seen anything like what I witnessed last summer in Illinois. In one field, I walked a half-mile through the field and walked the half-mile back in another part of the field, and I never saw a single ear of corn. Not one ear.
Some varieties of corn did better than others, and Mother Nature was kinder to some farmers than to others. When all was said and done, we ended up with about half of a normal corn crop at harvest. Even with half of a harvest, farmers still had a full tab of bills to pay.
I’ll never forget the faces of young farmers shaken by the sight of their year’s income slowly withering in the…
By Andrew Bowman
Aug. 2, 2013-From walking on soil baked into near-concrete during the worst drought in over 50 years in 2012, to dredging across flooded fields this soggy spring, farmers continue to face uncertainty. And that’s just weather. As a 27-year-old farmer, I’m starting to wonder what “normal” even means.
In my short career, corn prices have been under $2 and over $8 per bushel, land prices have nearly tripled since I purchased my first field, more regulations point to greater expense without offsetting revenue, and farm policy has evolved from focusing on price supports and direct payments toward a more market-oriented risk management tool called crop insurance, a public-private partnership whereby farmers purchase policies and only receive a payment if there is a documented loss. Given our new “normal” characterized by volatility everywhere-in weather, markets and regulation-farmers would struggle without access to crop insurance, a vital tool for rural America and the new face of farm policy.
The farm bill, which will guide American agriculture for the next five years, is currently being debated in Congress. Current farm bill proposals eliminate direct payments, which are cash subsidies based on historical price figures. Price support mechanisms still exist, but are much reduced-corn and soybean price supports as proposed in the House are 72 percent and 75 percent of the 2008-2012 Olympic Average Price, respectively, and the Senate version is even lower at 55 percent for both crops. These programs are less necessary because crop insurance has assumed the role as the primary risk management tool for farmers.
Crop insurance saves taxpayers’ money. When disasters struck in the past, recovery was paid for completely by taxpayers. And that doesn’t include the other trade-distorting supply controls and price support policies enacted in response to farm crises. Last year, in contrast, when farmers here in Illinois were decimated by drought, we had crop insurance and didn’t need a disaster bill to help us plant this year.
It is a vast improvement over the price support system and direct payments of the past. Farmers must put “skin in the game.” Many even complain about the money lost over the years purchasing crop insurance. Moreover, we lose a hefty deductible-15 percent minimum-before any claims are paid out. Last year, this deductible was $12.7 billion. Coupled with $4.1 billion in premiums paid last year, farmers lost or paid nearly $17 billion before crop insurance kicked in. It’s a major expense for us, but one we’re happy to pay for because it gives us something this new “normal” rarely allows: peace of mind. From the federal government’s perspective, it may be a liability, but the public-private partnership means taxpayers and farmers also shoulder the rewards in the form of underwriting gains during good years. In fact, from 2001-2010, the government saw $3.99 billion in gains.
And the benefits extend to rural communities. The average American farmer is 58, the oldest at any time in our history. Assuming most retire at 65, we are seven years from real problems if we don’t start transitioning to the next generation. Crop insurance helps young farmers because it serves as “stop-loss” collateral to back credit-a crucial transition tool given the high capital costs of farming. In this sense, it is a bridge to the future for America’s farmers.
Crop insurance also supports farmers’ working capital, allowing cash to flow back into the economy. Farmers in other countries need to stockpile a large share of their profits into cash reserves planning for a bad year so they have sufficient liquidity when disaster strikes. Because American farmers have crop insurance, they don’t need enormous cash reserves and can instead reinvest profits. I have paid down debt and invested in newer, more sustainable technologies faster because crop insurance covered the risk…
By TOM MARCH | OP-ED
For fresh fruits and vegetables, there has been a recent convergence of trends and preferences that bode well for the industry.
The first is the federal government’s decision to ensure that more fresh fruits and vegetables are consumed in school meal programs, which will expose children who otherwise have limited access to these important foods. The other trend is the locavore — or eating local — movement, which underscores the importance of buying local and eating fresh produce.
But to ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables are available for a population that is increasingly asking for them, we need to have wise public policies in place to help the farmers here in Connecticut and elsewhere who grow these important foods to manage the risks brought on by Mother Nature…
By Steve Umlor
The affordability and bounty of the American food system did not occur by happenstance. It took wise policies supported by dedicated officials, hardworking farmers willing to risk their fortunes and a first-rate transportation and distribution system.
Many of the policies that underpin food production chiefly support the major food and feed commodities like corn, wheat and soybeans. But for those of us raising specialty crops – those fruits, vegetables and nuts that are an important part of our diet – there’s only one major risk management tool available: crop insurance.
Crop insurance is a public-private partnership whereby farmers purchase their own policies to cover the risks they choose to pay for. Michigan’s farmers face a huge amount of risk on a daily basis, including early frosts, drought, floods and market…
By Tom Zacharias, National Crop Insurance Services
Admittedly, opponents of farm policy attract more headlines than the men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs.
Then again, it is far easier to get attention with sensationalist claims and unsubstantiated data.
Take the drought of 2012 for example. Opponents of crop insurance made news by claiming that taxpayers would be responsible for as much as $40 billion. Critics called crop insurance a farmer bailout and said things like farmers were “laughing all the way to the bank” and were “praying for drought, not praying for rain.”
Never were these anti-agriculture activists and for-hire university economists criticized for their bombastic tone or baseless predictions that turned out to be incredibly inaccurate.
Sure, farmers tried to set the record straight, but supporting a farm policy that helped protect taxpayer dollars is not as glamorous as inflated estimates and inflammatory rhetoric.
Now, crop insurance opponents are at it again as Congress prepares to negotiate a farm bill. Farmers have been accused of “taking bribes.” Farmers even have been compared to cheap drunks at an open bar and told to pay their fair share.
Use of such language and misleading information…
By Patrick Solon, Streator, Illinois
The historic 2012 drought that wilted the corn and soybean fields of Illinois and other Midwest states was one of the costliest events to hit rural America in decades.
As the nightly news reported, losses on farms in large swaths of the Midwest were staggering, with some farmers having such low yields that harvesting was a waste of time.
I feel I live in an oasis. The drought and heat wave that crippled farmers in neighboring counties and nearby states somehow spared my farm and a few others here in north central Illinois. I don’t know if it’s where the farm is located, the soil it sits on or just the luck of the draw in getting a few rain showers here and there, but somehow, I was spared.
This makes me feel lucky, on one hand, since I did not face the dread of losing my crops, but guilty on the other hand because so many other farmers did.
In past years, a disaster on this level would have triggered a massive, ad hoc disaster…