Crop Insurance Helps Preserve Farming for Future Generations

Farming is a unique profession in so many ways. First, it is more like a calling — to be part of God’s gifts here, and a steward of these gifts. To follow a crop from seed to harvest, or to see an animal born and grow to maturity — that’s a lot of the reason we do what we do.

But farming is different from other professions in other ways as well, including the unique risks and unpredictabilities we face every year. Farmers, for example, are always at the mercy of the weather. A 200-bushel corn crop can quickly become a 50-bushel corn crop under the wrong conditions.

In addition, we face a volatile market and never know which way the pendulum is going to swing. Lately, it hasn’t been swinging in our direction.

Thankfully, we have tools like crop insurance that help us manage risks like these. I feel strongly that crop insurance is critical to preserving our farms for future generations. So strongly, in fact, that in addition to being a farmer, I have also served as a crop insurance agent for fellow farmers for nearly two decades.

In my role as a crop insurance agent, I work with growers to help them purchase protection they need whether they are starting a farm, or preparing for their next crop.

For beginning farmers, having this protection is especially important. Many farmers starting out rely on banks for operating loans and these banks often require crop insurance so that farmers can pay back these loans if they have a bad year.

It has been extremely rewarding for me to work with these young farmers and to play a role in helping them not only get started in business, but stay in business despite the numerous challenges farm country has experienced in recent years.

During the severe drought of 2012, for example, our area had terrible crop yields. That year was hard enough on established farmers, but for beginning farmers I know that having crop insurance played an integral role in their survival.

There are a few misconceptions out there about crop insurance, which have become especially widespread during the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations. But let’s be clear: crop insurance is not a handout.

Farmers purchase crop insurance out of their own pockets. On average, farmers spend $3.5 to $4 billion per year out for crop insurance coverage. Last year in Kentucky, farmers collectively paid $57 million for coverage. As is the case with other types of insurance, we must prove that we have met a deductible to be eligible for a payment for a portion of our loss.

Because of the unique risks involved in farming, the federal government also provides support to reduce the cost to farmers. If we didn’t have this federal support, crop insurance would simply not be affordable most of America’s farmers and ranchers.

Of note, before crop insurance was widely available and efficient like it is today, the cost of natural disasters fell directly on U.S. taxpayers by way of disaster bills. And they took forever to get to the farm.

I am fortunate to be the eighth generation of my family to farm in Larue County though I didn’t inherit family farm land. We purchased our farm more than a decade ago, basically starting from scratch. It hasn’t always been easy, but it is our way of life — our calling. Agriculture has always been the backbone of our country, and I would love for one or all three of my children to carry on this tradition.

In order for that to happen, we have to protect crop insurance.

Jeremy Hinton, farmer and crop insurance agent, Hodgenville, Kentucky

Slicing crop insurance cuts at America’s Heartland

It’s been a wet spring around my family’s farm. We’re about three weeks behind on planting and, like many of my neighbors in Magnolia, we’re hoping for continued warm weather.

I love this time of the year. This is what it’s all about for a farmer — putting a seed in the ground and raising it all season for harvest.

My family has been doing just that in this part of Kentucky for nine generations. At 31, I’m already a lifer. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than growing soybeans, corn and winter wheat and raising pigs in a pretty part of the world.

But, lately, the business of farming has been tough. I’m not the only one feeling the pressure. Nationally, farm incomes are down 50 percent compared to what they were five years ago. That’s put a pinch on everyone.
Grain prices are down. So are beef, pork, poultry and milk. Couple all that with the fact that most of your farmland operations, on any scale, have substantial debt loads, and it’s easy to see how people are struggling in farm country.

On the upside, we have a growing global population and I think the future is bright — especially if smart policy decisions are made in Washington. Congress currently is debating the Farm Bill, which is critical to how we plan and run our business.

Crop insurance, which is part of the Farm Bill, has become the main way farms mitigate the risks of uncontrollable weather and unpredictable price swings. It has become the cornerstone of the American farm safety net.

Crop insurance is a lot like life insurance. You don’t ever want to use it. But at the same time, it helps manage through a disaster and helps you stay in business.

The last time we used crop insurance was the drought of 2012. Without it, we would have had a hard time planting our next crop.

Most banks require it nowadays to get an operating loan at the start of the season.

Crop insurance has changed a lot in recent years — offering dozens of policies and coverage options that are as unique as America’s farms. This ability to tailor coverage to fit your individual need and adapt to a changing market is one reason crop insurance has become so popular.

Products such as Harvest Price Option give us modern tools to manage the risks of modern agriculture.

HPO lets us forward market our crops. It protects revenue, not just yields, offering the equivalent of “replacement value” coverage on a car.

As farmers, we’re willing to pay extra for the protection HPO offers because it gives you the faith you need to put your borrowed money in the ground and know you’ll be able to pay it back.

I hope Congress will leave crop insurance alone in the Farm Bill.

Without this essential risk-management tool, a lot of farmers are going to be left holding the bag. Without it, it is going to be hard to incentivize folks to put out crops and produce the food and fiber we need to feed and clothe the country.

Cutting crop insurance would be like cutting the heart out of the heartland. That’s not just bad for farming; that’s bad for everyone.

Caleb Ragland grows soybean, corn, winter wheat and raises pigs with his father and grandfather at Shady Rest Farm in Magnolia. He can be reached at