Celebrating Our Farmers Today and Everyday

Many Americans may never step foot on a farm. But America’s farmers and ranchers are an integral part of our everyday lives, working to feed and clothe the nation. In fact, each American farmer feeds more than 165 people.

Today is National Agriculture Day, a day to celebrate the American farmer and recognize the incredible contributions that our food and fiber producers make every single day.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has instituted an informal motto at the USDA: “Do Right and Feed Everyone.” The crop insurance industry is proud to support the farmers who devote themselves to this important mission.

America’s farmers are the most efficient in the world, but they can’t always predict what the future holds. Crop insurance helps protect our farmers and ranchers, ensuring that they can keep producing a safe and affordable supply of food for those here at home and abroad.

The federal crop insurance program protected a record 334 million acres in 2018. That’s more than 90% of America’s farmland. With insurance available for more than 130 different crops and affordable policies for operations both large and small, crop insurance provides an important safety net for farms across the country.

Jim Korin, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) and president of NAU Country Insurance Company, recently said it best: “We must remember our purpose: To provide exceptional coverage and service to farmers and ranchers to help them do what they do best…feed and clothe the world.”

Thank you to all of America’s farmers and ranchers. Today, and every day.

Crop Insurance Wins Wide Support on Capitol Hill and In Countryside

Federal crop insurance and the critical role it serves as part of the farm safety net unexpectedly took center stage at a recent Senate Finance hearing with the United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow questioned USTR Lighthizer on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) proposed spending plan for Fiscal Year 2020, which takes aim at the United States Department of Agriculture. OMB suggested making cuts to a popular farm risk management tool: crop insurance.

While this budget is unlikely to ever be adopted by Congress, Senator Stabenow, who is the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, rightly noted that cuts to the USDA and crop insurance would be contrary to the policy objectives established by the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of the Farm Bill in December 2018.

Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) immediately interjected, emphasizing that cutting crop insurance is a non-starter.

“It would gut the program,” the Chairman said of OMB’s proposal, “and that’s the one thing that our farmers and ranchers and growers all over the country said was the number one issue.”

He wasn’t alone in criticizing the plan.  Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made his objections heard a couple of days earlier.

“More than 310 million farm acres protected by crop insurance would be at risk,” he said of the plan, which he noted, “undermines our farmers.”

And those farmers have been very clear in their message to Capitol Hill to “do no harm” to crop insurance. Some of these farmers reiterated this ask at this week’s Agri-Pulse summit in Washington, D.C.

Luke Howard, an organic farmer from Millington, Maryland, shared how crop insurance helped his farm after a record rainfall last year, stating it was a lifesaver and “a smart use of tax dollars.”

And a first-generation farmer, John Shepherd from Blackstone, Virginia, emphasized that he may not have survived his first few years of farming without the safety net provided by crop insurance.

Their stories and similar testaments from farmers and ranchers are clear.

We simply cannot balance the federal budget on the backs of America’s farmers and ranchers. And agriculture cannot thrive without a strong crop insurance system.

Farmers Helped Protect Crop Insurance During 2018 Farm Bill Debate

Every five years, Congress sets the course for our nation’s agricultural policy with the passage of a Farm Bill. When farm policy critics predictably suggested that Congress use the 2018 Farm Bill to undermine the critical safety net that crop insurance provides, those who depend on crop insurance were quick to tell Capitol Hill to “do no harm” to this important program.

The House Agriculture Committee held listening sessions across the country to hear first-hand from rural Americans and their message was clear: “The crop insurance system today is working.

Heather Hampton Knodle from Fillmore, Illinois:

Crop insurance [is a] critical tool for risk management, not only for farmers and rural communities, but also for the government.

Ben Scholz, President of the Texas Wheat Producers Association:

I know you will probably hear it a thousand times that crop insurance is indispensable. And all I’m going to say here is it’s absolutely true.

John Giesenschlag from Snook, Texas:

I feel very, very strongly that we have to maintain the crop insurance program. I think that it is administered efficiently because it’s done through private companies. I think that you can choose your level of coverage that you want. I think the product is delivered timely. I think that revenues are delivered back to the farmer timely, the producer, much more efficiently than has been done in the other programs that have been put out there.

Noah Hultgren from Wilmar, Minnesota:

…crop insurance is so important to me. We’ve got three families directly that derive income from our farm, and if we did not have crop insurance, we wouldn’t be able to survive. We had weather issues this year, just like other people. We had a whole 80 acres of corn that got hailed out and normally, if we did not have crop insurance, we wouldn’t be able to survive. We needed that to basically break even possibly and so we can farm again.

Kyle Peterson, Chairman of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative:

Most crop farmers borrow more in 1 year to produce a crop than most Americans do in a lifetime. Our growers and our bankers need strong risk management tools like crop insurance that are essential in order to secure operating loans to grow our crop. With more frequent and intense weather patterns, rising interest rates and production costs, and lower commodity prices, our risk has gone up, while our balance sheets have gone down. We simply have to have affordable crop insurance to manage those risks.

Linda Carlton-Huber, owner of CF&H Insurance Agency in Illinois:

Agriculture plays an integral role in our economy. If the farmer struggles, so does every town in Illinois. Crop insurance has made farmers a better businessman.

James Fitzpatrick, agent at Arthur Carroll Insurance Agency in Connecticut:

…just remember, with the cuts that have been talked about for the Farm Bill for crop insurance, that it’s these people’s livelihoods. I mean, they have no control over the weather, and they need the safety net. It’s not just farms, it’s families, and we’re protecting our country’s food supply.

These messages demonstrating the positive benefits of the crop insurance program were echoed by legislators back in Washington, DC during debate over the future of the Farm Bill.

Congress responded by passing with overwhelmingly bipartisan majorities a Farm Bill that included strong crop insurance provisions, giving our farmers certainty and providing them with the tools they need to manage their unique risks. President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law in December, saying that “by signing this bill we are protecting our crop insurance program.”

As Congress begins the annual budget process, America’s agricultural community has asked House and Senate appropriators to ensure that the crop insurance program receives the full funding that it requires to be successful.

None of this would have been possible without farmers’ voices telling Washington that crop insurance is an indispensable part of our nation’s safe and affordable food supply.

Crop Insurance Vital to America’s Family Farms

Just before the end of 2018, the Economic Research Service at the United States Department of Agriculture released a report analyzing data from a 2017 survey of farmers across the country. This report – titled “America’s Diverse Family Farms” – presents the facts behind farming in America.

According to the USDA:

  • Ninety-eight percent of U.S. farms are family farms, and they account for 87 percent of farm production.
  • Family farms categorized as midsize or large produced 62 percent of America’s food and fiber and accounted for 6 out of 10 harvested acres in 2017.
  • One-third of U.S. farm goods are produced under forward contracts to help manage price and production risks.
  • Seven in 10 American farms have an operating profit margin in the “red zone,” indicating a high risk of financial problems.
  • Farm income has declined almost 40 percent since 2013, and more than 40 percent of farms are now relying on income generated off the farm to make ends meet.

The crop insurance system that protects these family farms and makes forward contracting possible in today’s difficult financial environment was also mentioned in the report.

Two-thirds of midsize farms and three-fourths of large farms participate in crop insurance, the report found.

National Crop Insurance Services has traveled the country for the past year hearing first-hand from family farmers in Iowa to Colorado to North Carolina and elsewhere about their experiences. The message has overwhelmingly been that crop insurance is an invaluable tool for America’s farmers and ranchers, and that policymakers should “do no harm to crop insurance.”

Be sure to check out their stories and learn more about crop insurance’s importance to your state at www.cropinsuranceinmystate.org.