My husband and I have been farming in Southeastern Colorado for more than 40 years and during that time it’s safe to say there have been a lot of changes not only in farming practices, but also in farm policy.
The biggest farm policy change through the years has been the affordability and availability of crop insurance. When we first started farming crop insurance was not an option because we couldn’t afford it. It wasn’t until Congress made reforms to the program a couple decades ago that we were able to participate. Additional reforms through the years have made crop insurance more widely available to a variety of crops regardless of farm size or method of production.
It is still an expensive part of the operation, but it is a necessary part because it provides us with stability – something we can count on. This is helpful not only when we need to show our lender at the bank what our estimated income will be, but also for our own peace of mind.
You have to realize that out here, we can have a beautiful crop and phenomenal yields one year and then we can get wiped out the next year by a hailstorm or drought. For the last three years, the ongoing drought and the late spring freezes have dogged our crops. With crop insurance, we have been able to level out the highs and lows so we can make it to another year.
The enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill made crop insurance the centerpiece of the farm safety net and for good reason. It is an effective risk management tool for not only farmers, but also taxpayers. Gone are the days of large, unbudgeted disaster bills aimed at helping farmers when natural disasters strike. Now because of crop insurance everyone — policymakers, farmers, and bankers — can plan and budget for those disasters.
Recently, there has been talk in Washington about trying to make changes to crop insurance again — just one year after the Farm Bill was enacted. Specifically, there have been discussions about cutting the premium support farmers receive for purchasing crop insurance. This does a disservice to everyone. If such proposals succeed, it would only serve to increase the costs to farmers and undermine their ability to manage risk. As my husband and I can attest premium support has helped us be able to afford crop insurance, which has helped our overall farming operation.
Each new farm bill ushers in new changes to farm policy and we’ve experienced those changes firsthand, but the one part that should remain constant going forward is crop insurance. It is the key to a steady, safe food production system in the U.S. The beneficiaries of crop insurance are not just farmers, but consumers.
Cathy Scherler is the president of the Colorado chapter of Women in Farming Enterprises (WIFE). She and her husband grow wheat, grain sorghum, sunflowers, and corn.