Crop Insurance Keeps Family Farms Alive

Jim Carroll, a fourth-generation farmer in Brinkley, Arkansas, is no stranger to the “bad times” that come with farming. Some years, it feels like he’s just trying to survive.

That’s why Jim invests in crop insurance. “We use crop insurance for the fact that if something bad happens, we don’t want to lose our livelihood, not being smart enough to take a little crop insurance out,” he explained in a new video.

Crop insurance helps Jim manage his risks and protect the farm in the hopes that one day, his grandson will take over as the fifth generation. “My hope is he’ll like this because there’s something unique about being able to put a seed in the ground and watch it come up and develop.”

National Crop Insurance Services is dedicated to sharing the stories of the people behind crop insurance policies. Each one is important, whether it’s the farmers who rely on crop insurance to keep growing after disaster or the agents and adjusters who are dedicated to preserving a strong agricultural economy.

Watch more Real Stories here.

Our most recent trip to the field took us to the rich farmland of Arkansas and Mississippi. Tim Ralston in Atkins, Arkansas, farms rice, soybeans, and corn while raising cattle. The jasmine rice he grows is so fragrant, he said “you can actually smell it when you pull into the field.”

Tim recalled a 500-year flood that threatened his farm and damaged his rice. His crop insurance policy quickly delivered aid to help cover his losses.

“Crop insurance kind of provides a safety net to where you know what the minimum return is going to be. And if you can live with that minimum return and then, you know, you can survive and go forward,” Tim said.

“With [crop insurance], you know it was devastating as it was, but without it, it would have been catastrophic.”

Watch these stories and more at CropInsuranceInAmerica.org.

Heard from the Field: Michigan Farmers Share Insights with Senate

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its first field hearing in preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) traveled to Sen. Stabenow’s home state of Michigan to hear from local farmers and other key stakeholders about the farm policies that are key to keeping their farms running and their local communities fed. It is no surprise that crop insurance was a common topic in several of these testimonies.

That’s because farmers are facing many risks, especially as climate-driven loss events increase. Juliette King McAvoy, who grows tart cherries and other specialty crops at King Orchards in Northern Michigan, said that crop insurance helps their family farm deal with the threats posed by volatile spring weather.

“Crop insurance absolutely helps us manage risk,” McAvoy said. “We’ve had increased frequency of crop loss and I cannot imagine trying to survive without it. There are not many business models that can withstand the kind of volatility that we are experiencing.”

McAvoy also said that crop insurance gives her the certainty and the confidence to continue her family’s long-term investment in their orchard. “The crop insurance plans do not make us whole (typical plans insure 60% of a crop), but they are so important to ensure that we can keep the orchards maintained and make it to another season,” she wrote in her submitted testimony.

Allyson Maxwell, co-owner of Peter Maxwell Farms, shared similar sentiments about the importance of a strong crop insurance program.

“The safety net provided by crop insurance is vital to maintaining the agriculture industry in this country, especially in the face of increasingly unpredictable disasters like drought, flood, and extreme weather,” Maxwell said. “It’s a really, really important risk tool that we have…and we’re really grateful for it and the fact that it is protected by our Farm Bill.”

She recalled watching her aunt and uncle almost lose their Missouri farm in the 1980s because they did not have crop insurance. Thankfully, their farm survived, and today, they also rely on crop insurance.

Jake Isley, a 6th generation farmer and soybean grower at Stewardship Farms, stressed to the committee that crop insurance must remain affordable in the 2023 Farm Bill.

“Our risk management program on which soybean farmers and our lenders rely on heavily is crop insurance. We must continue to have an affordable crop insurance program. With input costs higher in every area of my operation, I cannot afford to have the crop insurance premium subsidy reduced in this next Farm Bill,” Isley said.

We’re proud that crop insurance has earned the trust and confidence of Michigan farmers, as Sen. Stabenow noted as well.

“One of the things that came up over and over again is crop insurance, which is so critical, particularly in these times with weather getting worse and worse and worse,” Stabenow said. “Our farmers, they’re not asking for a handout. They want help to make sure there’s a backstop that helps them with their risk.”

The testimony from Michigan’s farmers has made it clear that Congress must continue to support a strong crop insurance program in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Principles for an Effective Farm Safety Net

Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net. But why is crop insurance such an effective tool for farmers to manage their risks and recover from crop losses?

Modern crop insurance brings together the efficiencies of a private-sector delivery system with the regulatory oversight and financial support of the government.

Following the farm crisis of the 1980s, a government report prepared for the House Agriculture Committee outlined several principles for an effective farm safety net. Since this report was published, the crop insurance industry and Congress have worked together to strengthen crop insurance and ensure the program meets these principles.

  • Crop insurance provides timely financial assistance to help farmers withstand and recover from crop loss weather events. The public-private partnership between the Federal government and private crop insurers increases efficiency and ensures that aid is delivered quickly. Farmers receive help in just days or weeks.
  • Crop insurance is consistently available to give farmers certainty for long-range planning. When farmers purchase a crop insurance policy, they and their bankers know that they can count on timely assistance should they need it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets rates and rules for the plans that can be sold by private insurance agents, and farmers purchase the appropriate crop insurance policy for their individual risk.
  • Crop insurance provides assistance as determined by an individual farmer’s actual loss, not by the severity of the overall disaster event. Following a weather disaster, private-sector claims adjusters quickly and accurately assess damages and calculate losses. Delivering aid based on actual losses protects farmers, ranchers, and taxpayers alike.
  • Crop insurance requires that farmers invest in their own protection, ensuring farmers are receiving assistance commensurate with the verified amount of their losses. The Federal crop insurance program requires farmers to invest in their own protection and share in the risk. Last year, America’s farmers collectively paid $5 billion to purchase crop insurance premiums and shouldered losses through deductibles.
  • Crop insurance does not create incentives to encourage farming practices that increase the likelihood and extent of losses. In fact, just the opposite. Following Good Farming Practices is a requirement of each crop insurance policy. These practices are based on sound data, science, and are constantly evolving to keep pace with new technologies and changes in the market, weather, and land management.
  • Crop insurance has predictable costs and is required to be actuarily sound. By law, the amount of money in the crop insurance system over time must be sufficient to meet the cost of paying claims when disasters strike. In other words, the math must work.
  • Crop insurance works efficiently to meet its purpose of improving the economic stability of agriculture while maintaining high levels of program integrity. Working closely with USDA, America’s crop insurers have made program integrity a top priority. Crop insurers have invested millions in data collection, education and training, and new research and technology to better serve America’s farmers.

By consistently fulfilling these principles of an effective farm safety net, crop insurance has given our farmers stability. They overwhelmingly trust crop insurance to help them manage their risks.

Let’s fulfill our promises to America’s farmers by ensuring that crop insurance remains available and affordable. Do no harm to the farm safety net.

NCIS Scholarship Creates a Legacy of Giving Back

For more than a decade, National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) has invested in fostering the next generation of America’s agricultural community through the NCIS 1890 Scholarship Program.

As George Washington Carver once reminded us, “Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible.”

The 1890 Scholarship Program has worked to encourage creative minds by providing funding for four semesters to students with a professional interest in agriculture attending one of the 19 historically black land-grant institutions. It’s an investment in our nation’s farming future, and an investment in our commitment to increase the diversity in the crop insurance industry to reflect the diversity of the farmers it serves.

NCIS has awarded more than 25 scholarships to outstanding students since 2010. This year’s recipients are an exceptional group of young people who excel inside the classroom as well as through extracurricular activities on campus and are committed to giving back to their communities.

Scholarship recipient Samaya Brooks is studying agribusiness at North Carolina A&T State University.

“Agribusiness gives me the opportunity to learn about agriculture, which affects everyone, and help many people,” Samaya shares. “I’m very happy to have the opportunity to research and learn more about what I’m interested in. It has been my goal and dream since high school.”

After graduation, Samaya hopes to pursue a PhD to continue agribusiness research. Ultimately, she would like to use her career in agriculture to help to improve the lifestyle of farmers and protect them from exploitation.

Similarly, Tennessee State University student Tiffani Patterson also wants to use her agricultural career to help others.

“I plan to finish my degree in agricultural sciences and pursue a career in agriculture education. I plan to give back to students as my teachers did and hopefully show them that ag is not just for farm kids, but any kid who wants to learn about agriculture and [has] a passion to pursue it. I was not a farm kid by any means, but I was welcomed with open arms and learned many things I will use for the rest of my life,” Tiffani says.

This year, NCIS awarded a total of five scholarships to students from around the country. Our other deserving scholars are:

  • Erikton Goodloe is an agricultural business management major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He’ll be a first-generation college graduate and looks forward to using his degree to launch a successful career helping farmers.
  • Paris Williams is an agricultural business major at Prairie View A&M University. Agriculture has been a lifelong interest for Paris, and she hopes to pursue a career in horticulture and agriculture research as well as start a small community farm.
  • Aja’Naeia Workman is a biology major at Alabama A&M University. She has plans to become a physician’s assistant to help others live healthier lives and make wiser health decisions.

All five of the 1890 Scholarship recipients are featured in the latest edition of Crop Insurance TODAY.

Risk Management Discussion Shines Spotlight on Crop Insurance

“I can honestly say I would not be sitting here if it was not for crop insurance,” wheat grower Nicole Berg recently told an audience in Washington, DC.

Last year, Berg turned to crop insurance when she was only able to harvest a third of her farm due to drought and arid conditions. Crop insurance provided a vital safety net.

Preserving and strengthening that safety net for all farm producers was a key topic at the annual Ag & Food Policy Summit, hosted by Agri-Pulse. Berg, who is President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, spoke on a panel that focused on managing risks and crop losses on the farm.

“All farmers want to do is stay in business another year,” she said.

The Ag & Food Policy Summit brought together policymakers, farm leaders, and commodity experts for policy discussions that will help shape the 2023 Farm Bill. Crop insurance is expected to remain farmers’ number one risk management tool.

“Our farmers say: crop insurance is a cornerstone of the Farm Bill. Don’t mess with it, just make it better,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Duvall noted that the Farm Bill should reflect the importance of farmers to our national security. That means protecting the farmers who maintain our abundant food supply. Unlike ad hoc disaster programs, which can sometimes take years to deliver assistance, arriving too late to save the family farm after disaster, crop insurance can provide timely assistance to farmers who face unforeseen challenges.

The strengths of crop insurance have made it the ideal risk management tool, said Tom Zacharias, President of National Crop Insurance Services.

  • Its public-private partnership increases efficiency and strengthens program integrity;
  • Its adaptability allows crop insurance to adjust for future risks;
  • Risks and costs are shared between taxpayers, insurers and the government, and;
  • Farmers receive help in just days or weeks, allowing them to count on the predictability of crop insurance to deliver assistance when they need it most.

America’s farmers overwhelmingly trust crop insurance to help them manage their risks. Today, crop insurance provides protection for more than 130 different commodities and covers farmers in all 50 states. Last year, crop insurance insured a record 462 million acres, providing $137 billion dollars in protection. That’s more than 90 percent of major crop insurable farmland in America.

Still, crop insurers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency are continually working together to improve crop insurance to better protect farmers. In the next Farm Bill, that will mean giving USDA the tools it needs to expand affordable coverage for specialty crop producers.

“Roughly $90 billion a year in specialty crops are planted in the United States, and about $19-20 billion of those specialty crops are covered by crop insurance. The delta is not small, but it has been closing, and that’s a positive,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council and a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

Quarles noted that there are more than 300 specialty crops, and each is grown differently, requiring USDA to analyze a significant amount of data. “It has an impact on how those products are priced, how they’re constructed. That’s an ongoing discussion as we look at this Farm Bill: how do we sit down with USDA and the industry, develop better data to make more affordable, useful products,” Quarles said.

As Congress considers next year’s Farm Bill, leaders encouraged farmers to speak out about how crop insurance gives farmers the certainty they need to keep farming.

President’s Budget Recognizes Crop Insurance is Key to Farm Safety Net

The President this week released his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget that fully funds the federal crop insurance program in recognition of the indispensable role that crop insurance plays in the farm safety net.

The release of the FY 2023 Budget follows a letter sent to OMB and the Secretary of Agriculture by 55 farming, banking, and conservation organizations asking that the administration protect crop insurance from harmful budget cuts.

The American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and National Crop Insurance Services released the following joint statement:

“America’s farmers and ranchers feed our nation, grow the fibers that clothe us, and provide an important economic driver for our rural communities. Over the past several years, crop insurance has helped farmers navigate the challenges posed by weather disasters, supply chain disruptions, and uncertain markets. The Administration has recognized the importance of crop insurance as a critical risk management tool by fully funding crop insurance in its FY 2023 budget.

“The crop insurance program works for farmers and taxpayers alike:

  • By delivering aid quickly and efficiently, crop insurance continues to earn the trust of America’s farmers, protecting more than 90 percent of America’s planted crop land acres.
  • Farmers invest in their own protection. Last year, farmers spent $5 billion to purchase crop insurance and then shouldered a significant portion of losses through deductibles.
  • Crop insurance complements farmers’ efforts to invest in conservation and climate-smart farming practices.
  • The federal government spends less than a quarter of 1% of its budget on the farm safety net, including crop insurance, making this a worthwhile investment to protect the world’s most affordable and safe food and fiber supply.

“We appreciate this Administration for fully funding crop insurance in its proposed budget. We urge Congress to follow suit by protecting and strengthening crop insurance.”

Thank You, Farmers and Ranchers!

There is no greeting card or time-honored holiday tradition for National Agriculture Day, but it’s arguably one of the most important days of the year.

That’s because it’s a day to celebrate America’s farmers and ranchers and recognize their incredible contributions. After all, without farmers, we wouldn’t have food on our tables, clothes in our closets, or biofuels available at the pump.

There are approximately two million farms in America. That’s less than one percent of our nation working sunup to sundown (and sometimes all night long) to provide nearly 330 million Americans with an abundant and affordable supply of food, fiber and fuel.

While fewer and fewer people have a close connection to agriculture, our nation’s rich farming traditions live on in our farm families. In fact, about 98 percent of farms are family farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual America’s Diverse Family Farms report. These family farms are responsible for 87 percent of farm production.

At National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), we have spoken to family farmers across the country about the importance of protecting our farmers and ranchers. Farmers like Erica Wuthrich in Iowa. Erica grew up farming and is hoping to continue this legacy for generations to come.

“The majority of the families around here are farmers,” Erica told NCIS. “If we didn’t have the farming operations around here, it wouldn’t be good – it would be awful.”

As young farmers, Erica and her husband, Brent, rely on the stability provided by crop insurance to keep their farm growing, through good seasons – and bad. They’re not alone. Crop insurance is trusted by farmers to protect 460 million acres of farmland and more than $137 billion in food, fiber, and fuel.

So, as we share our gratitude for our farmers, it is equally important that we give them the tools that they need to succeed by maintaining a reliable farm safety net and a strong crop insurance program.

Happy National Agriculture Day!

What Farmers Are Telling Congress About Crop Insurance

Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee invited various commodity groups to testify before the committee on Title I programs in the Farm Bill. This hearing kicked off the committee’s examination of the Farm Bill programs that help provide stability to America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as they do the hard work of feeding, fueling, and clothing our nation.

While crop insurance was not the focus of this hearing, it was no surprise that the importance of the crop insurance program was reiterated time and time again. That’s because crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net and trusted by farmers to protect more than 90 percent of insurable farmland in America.

Commodity leaders from across the country, representing tens of thousands of farmers growing a diverse range of crops, praised the crop insurance program, speaking at times about their personal farming experience. In their own words, here’s what they had to say about crop insurance:

“ASA must share for the record the high importance of crop insurance to soybean farmers. Soybean farmers consistently communicate that this is the most effective component of the farm safety net when viewed more broadly… Crop insurance must remain affordable for producers.” – Brad Doyle, American Soybean Association

“Last year, I didn’t harvest a third of my farm. And so, I had to utilize the safety net of crop insurance, and it was there, and I’d have to say, it’s kept the family farm in business.” – Nicole Berg, National Association of Wheat Growers

“We know that agricultural markets are cyclical, and an effective safety net is imperative for the inevitable times of low prices. The combination of commodity program options and crop insurance gives farmers as well as their lenders the confidence entering planting season knowing that downside risk is mitigated in periods of steep price decline or a significant loss of production.” – Jaclyn Ford, National Cotton Council

“Crop insurance is #1. It is our #1 best risk-management tool, and we need to continue with that. It is a vital piece.” – Chris Edgington, National Corn Growers Association

“As we are seeing continuous erratic weather patterns – longer and more extreme droughts in some regions and more frequent flooding in other areas – the farm safety net and robust crop insurance program that helps farmers adequately mitigate risk and volatility becomes vital to the sustainability and continuation of family farms.” – Verity Ulibarri, National Sorghum Producers

“I hope that the stability and certainty of the farm safety net that the Title I and crop insurance programs represent will remain the top priority and driving force in the timely reauthorization of a bipartisan Farm Bill in 2023. Farmers, as well as consumers that rely on the food we produce, are facing a lot of challenges and uncertainty. Additional instability and uncertainty in the fam safety net and our food production system is the last thing we need.” –  Clark Coleman, National Sunflower Association, National Barley Growers Association, U.S. Canola Association, and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council

The message to Congress was loud and clear: to best serve America’s farmer and ranchers, crop insurance must be protected and strengthened in the next Farm Bill.

For America’s Farmers, Crop Insurance is First Line of Defense Against Climate Change

As farmers face increasing challenges due to climate change, the safety net provided by crop insurance is their first line of defense. This was one of the messages delivered last week at a panel discussion on mitigating the risks of climate change during the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

National Crop Insurance Services President Tom Zacharias was among the stakeholders who spoke on the need to provide predictable risk management tools to America’s farmers.

“Their success depends on a healthy environment. One weather disaster can drive a family farm out of business,” Zacharias explained.

America’s farmers overwhelmingly turn to crop insurance to manage their risks. In 2021, crop insurance insured more than 460 million acres, providing $137 billion dollars in protection. Farmers invested more than $5 billion of their own money to protect the crops that supply Americans with food and fiber.

“As rural America confronts climate change, it is critical that crop insurance remain just as dynamic as the farmers it protects. To accomplish this, crop insurance needs to be widely available, affordable, financially viable, and adaptable,” Zacharias said.

Crop insurance not only works to protect farmers when disaster strikes, but it also complements efforts to incentivize the voluntary adoption of climate-smart farming practices.  Congress, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), and crop insurers have worked together to improve the voluntary adoption of farming practices that increase resiliency, improve conservation, and support a healthy environment.

David Zanoni, Senior Underwriter at RMA, discussed several of the improvements RMA has already made to accommodate new farming practices, including the requirement that farmers adhere to approved conservation plans to protect highly erodible land and wetlands as well as the use of Good Farming Practices, such as cover crops.

Zanoni noted that as agriculture continues to innovate, crop insurance will, too. “It will be a constant evolution of the product line to deal with the challenges of the day,” he said.

Lance Griff, a third-generation farmer from Twin Falls, Idaho, provided a grower perspective, sharing with the audience how he transitioned to utilizing no-till and cover crops in 2013.

“I wanted to leave healthier soil for my kids if they want to farm,” Griff said. “I also wanted our soil to have more resiliency, to endure weather challenges.”

Crop insurance has earned the trust of farmers like Griff, and it is an important part of their risk management plans.

“Crop insurance is a vital tool we employ to help us plan for the upcoming year and mitigate crop production risks that are inherent to farming. These tools help us to be optimistic and resilient in confronting the challenges that face farmers in the 21st century,” Griff said.

Dr. Julia Borman from Verisk Extreme Event Solutions spoke to the highly unpredictable nature of extreme weather and how probabilistic models can help insurers address the challenge of insufficient historical events. “Unlike events such as fire or theft, which are not highly correlated, weather events such as hurricanes are a low frequency and usually high-cost event, there is a strong correlation, and it’s hard to predict the frequency of claims that are going to happen.”

Weather as a driver of crop failure, as well as long-term climate trends, will continue to be a concern for farmers, insurers, and policymakers, Borman said. “One of the major concerns for the insurance industry is balancing that short-term versus long-term perspective,” she said.

Zacharias concluded his remarks by noting that crop insurance must remain affordable, effective, viable, and adaptable to help America’s farmers secure a more sustainable future.

“Looking forward, we know agriculture has an important role to play in the mission to protect our environment and advance climate-smart policies. And we know that a strong and resilient supply of food and fiber is critical for our economy and for our citizens,” he said.

Vilsack: USDA ‘Laser Focused’ on Crop Insurance Access

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to affordable and flexible crop insurance for the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and producers, according to Secretary Tom Vilsack.

He made his pre-recorded remarks on the second day of the crop insurance industry’s annual convention in California.

“Your work is critical to helping America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers manage the risky, but necessary, business of producing our food, fuel, and fiber that so many take for granted,” he said.

Vilsack said he’s seen historic droughts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and many other disasters in his time as USDA secretary. He said the farmers, ranchers, and producers who had crop insurance told him it gave them the confidence to rebuild and make it to the next growing season.

“They knew that one bad year, one lost crop, wouldn’t mean losing the family farm or ranch that had been in the family for generations because they had that insurance product, that didn’t necessarily make them whole, but did keep them in the game,” he said.

Before, during, and after disasters, agents, and adjusters help deliver for agriculture. America’s farm policy is the envy of the world, he said.

“And the public-private partnership of Federal crop insurance is one of its key components,” he said.

More and more farmers are choosing to invest in crop insurance, in part, because payments are fast but also because the program continues to innovate. He noted the growth in coverage options for different crops and production systems.

He said USDA is working to help producers effectively manage risk through crop insurance with programs including row crop, whole farm revenue protection, rainfall index programs for forage and dairy safety net services to protect against market fluctuations.

USDA is innovating with new insurance options for small producers who sell locally through the micro farm policy that simplifies record keeping and covers post-production costs. It is also working to make cover crops more affordable.

Data from crop insurance is helping to streamline the process and reduce the burden on producers.

“You all have basically helped provide opportunities and hope to our farm families,” he said.

The agency sees its partnership with crop insurance as the path forward to securing the nation’s food supply.

“At USDA, we are laser focused on making sure that every farmer, rancher, and producer of food, fuel and fiber can access the needed crop insurance tools to manage their operating risk,” he said.