House Crop Insurance Caucus Shares Importance of Farm Safety Net

Congressional staff filled a hearing room on Capitol Hill last week for the official launch of the bipartisan House Crop Insurance Caucus, hosted by co-chairs Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.).

The House Crop Insurance Caucus will work to share with lawmakers the benefits of crop insurance and demonstrate how this program helps our farmers endure hardship by mitigating their risks.

Bustos has seen first-hand how crop insurance can be a lifeline for farmers devastated by unexpected weather events. Her Illinois district was hit hard by the extreme weather that inundated the Midwest this spring. “Our growers and producers are hurting,” she said. “Our family farmers are hurting.”

“This bipartisan Crop Insurance Caucus will work arm-in-arm to educate other members about the importance of a strong farm safety net and agricultural economy,” Bustos said.

Thompson made it clear what’s at stake when it comes to protecting the Federal crop insurance program. “Having crop insurance is incredibly important,” Thompson said. “We know that agriculture is really about food security. And food security is really about national security.”

This briefing was just the first of many, as the caucus hopes to be an accessible resource for Congress and an avenue to encourage bipartisan collaboration to strengthen the Federal crop insurance program.

“This caucus aims to educate our colleagues and educate the general public on the importance and value of crop insurance.” Thompson explained. “It all starts today.”

Farmers and agriculture lenders also spoke alongside the members of Congress, sharing their personal experiences with crop insurance.

Illinois farmer Ron Moore discussed how the impact of crop insurance extends beyond individual farmers to the local economies that rely on the income generated by agriculture. “Crop insurance is a valuable tool that we have as farmers. It’s imperative that we continue to preserve that tool because it not only helps me as a farmer, but it also helps my community,” Moore said.

Heather Greenwalt, Assistant Vice President at Farm Credit Illinois, remembered the 2012 drought and the role crop insurance played in preserving family farms across the Midwest. It was a beautiful spring and all of the local farmers were so proud of what they were able to accomplish in the field, she recalled. Until one day it just stopped raining. It was the worst drought since the Dust Bowl.

But the farm safety net worked as it was designed. Private crop insurance companies worked efficiently to deliver aid to farmers, saving tens of thousands of jobs along with taxpayer money.

“Crop insurance in 2012 was the difference in people staying in the agriculture industry in 2013,” Greenwalt said. “And crop insurance is again in 2019 going to be a major and crucial risk management tool for many farmers and producers.”

Risk is an intrinsic part of farming and producers are always calculating the variables that can impact crop production or their herd. But Greenwalt knows that when disaster strikes, the farmers she serves can find comfort in knowing that crop insurance gives them options for relief.

Greenwalt added, “As an agent and as a farmer, a strong crop insurance program means for a strong rural economy and a strong food supply for our nation.”

Learn more about how the Federal crop insurance program works by watching our brand new Crop Insurance 101 video or visiting CropInsurance101.org.

National Crop Insurance Services Launches New Website to Educate Public, Policymakers on Importance of Crop Insurance

Our nation’s farmers and ranchers face unpredictable hazards, many of which can destroy a hard-earned livelihood in moments. Thankfully, farmers can count on crop insurance to help them navigate these risks and protect their operation should disaster strike.

However, the continued success of crop insurance depends on keeping the program affordable, widely available, and economically viable. And that starts with educating both the public and policymakers as to the important role crop insurance plays in the farm safety net.

National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) has launched a new website at CropInsurance101.org that aims to be an easily-accessible resource where visitors can learn more about the history of crop insurance, download fact sheets, or find a glossary of common terms. As part of this initiative, NCIS also debuted a new Crop Insurance 101 video that explains how crop insurance works.

The Crop Insurance 101 website was officially launched at a congressional briefing today hosted by the new House Crop Insurance Caucus.

Created by Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), this bipartisan caucus will provide a forum for all members to learn more about the value of the public-private partnership that makes crop insurance unique while encouraging bipartisan collaboration to strengthen this program for rural America.

Members of the caucus include: Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), TJ Cox (D-Calif.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), and Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.).

Illinois farmer Ron Moore provided congressional staff at the briefing with a first-hand perspective of the importance of crop insurance.

“The crop insurance program is a critical tool to protect against the risks that come with farming,” Moore said. “As the rural economy faces another tough year, it is encouraging to see members of Congress from both sides of the aisle come together to stand up for America’s farmers.”

And with crop insurance policies protecting nine out of every 10 planted acres of principle crops, crop insurance does more than provide economic security – it safeguards our nation’s food and fiber supply.

Learn more about how crop insurance works for both farmers and taxpayers alike by visiting CropInsurance101.org.

How Does Crop Insurance Impact Your State?

Crop insurance is a cornerstone of U.S. farm policy.

But what does that really mean for America’s farmers?

To put it all into perspective, National Crop Insurance Services has highlighted the state-by-state impacts of crop insurance at CropInsuranceInMyState.org.

There you can find individual fact sheets that illustrate the unique significance of agriculture in each state.

It’s probably to be expected that oranges are a staple in Florida, but did you know that New Jersey can thank tomatoes for being the largest agricultural contributor to the Garden State’s economy? Idaho might be famous for their potatoes, but potatoes lead the list of top crops for Maine as well.

And the federal crop insurance program helps these crops drive the economy by providing an invaluable safety net for those farmers and ranchers harvesting oranges, tomatoes, potatoes and the more than 100 additional covered crops.

Everything is bigger in Texas, and with 38 million acres protected by crop insurance, they come in at number one in acres covered. But corn-production powerhouse Iowa can boast the highest value of crops covered by federal crop insurance, with nearly $12 billion in protection.

And because crop insurance requires farmers, private insurance companies, and the federal government to share the burden of risk, each fact sheet outlines how much farmers and insurers invested into the federal crop insurance program through premiums and indemnities.

In total, federal crop insurance protects more than $100 billion worth of crops across more than 300 million acres in all 50 states.

Head back to the homepage to download a fact sheet for your state and view first-hand testimonials from the farmers and ranchers who rely on this valuable risk management tool.

Pennsylvania Farmers Consider Crop Insurance a Must-Have Tool

Brian Campbell always knew he wanted to be a farmer. He started a produce stand when he was just 14 years old. Now, his Pennsylvania farm produces mostly vegetables, including broccoli, sweet corn, lettuce and pumpkins.

But weather can be unpredictable in the Northeast, and his farm has seen challenges. In 2011, a severe flood wiped out approximately 50 percent of his expected revenue for that year. Banks no longer wanted to do business with him and he had to dig deep to recover.

Thankfully, the introduction of the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed Campbell to adequately insure his diverse crops against risk.

National Crop Insurance Services visited Brian Campbell Farms as part of our mission to tell the first-hand stories of the farmers and ranchers who rely on the safety net provided by the federal crop insurance program.

Campbell credits crop insurance for his growing success, saying, “If it wasn’t for whole farm revenue protection today, you know, I may not be at the size that I am.”

And he’s always looking forward to the next year, “I love what I do. It’s a passion. I really enjoy it.”

For family farmer Dave Clark, farming is also a passion that he just couldn’t shake. He briefly tried working off the farm but returned to his roots in 2001 when he and his wife purchased the family farm in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

“I always say it’s in your blood. I love farming,” Clark says.

Clark considers crop insurance a must-have business tool. He relies on crop insurance to help protect his farm against the inherent risks that come with putting your faith in weather to grow your crops and a favorable market in which to sell them.

As John Ligo says, “Risk in farming is part of the landscape. The risks that we face, some are controllable, and some are not.” But he emphasizes that one way to help mitigate these risks is to purchase crop insurance.

His farm in Grove City, Pennsylvania is home to approximately 600 head of cattle and he grows about 400 acres of corn alongside 600 acres of grass and rangeland.

Last year, Ligo’s farm saw 40 inches of rain and by early June he was short 100 acres of what he intended to plant. Crop insurance helped his farm survive. During those years when drought hindered grass production, crop insurance helped him then, too.

“It does change the way I farm, knowing that my risks are at least covered to a certain extent,” Ligo says.

Third-generation dairy farmer Billy Smith feels deeply connected to his family legacy of farming.

“I feel that it’s our God-given right here to take care of this land,” he says. “I feel that we’ve been blessed in many ways. You know, it’s our livelihood.”

He’s had to file a couple of crop insurance claims. But knowing that this valuable federal program exists helps ease the worries that come with farming. By reducing some of the risks that can arise on his farm, crop insurance allows him to better plan for the future.

“It’s always there to back us up whenever we need it.”

Congressional Testimony Touts Benefits of Crop Insurance

Farmers across the country know first-hand the critical role the federal crop insurance program plays in protecting our nation’s supply of food and fiber. It’s an important risk management tool that supports both America’s farming communities and the rural economies that rely on them.

Michael Davenport, COO of Rain and Hail and Chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers, brought this positive message to Capitol Hill today when he testified before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

Davenport’s testimony highlighted the unique public-private partnership that allows crop insurance to be flexible, affordable, available, and predictable.

By offering a variety of insurance products, federal crop insurance provides growers with dependable coverage options that fit the requirements of their individual farm. And with new investments in technology and a continuous focus on high-quality customer service, private crop insurers can quickly process claims while keeping costs manageable.

The 2018 Farm Bill helped strengthen the federal crop insurance program, and Davenport thanked the committee for investing in the American farmer.

“With the continued bipartisan support for the public-private partnership crop insurance provides, farmers are able to receive a reliable and cost-efficient safety net to protect both themselves and the future of farming,” Davenport testified.

The overwhelming success of crop insurance has made it the cornerstone of the federal farm safety net. More than 1 million federal crop insurance policies provide more than $100 billion in coverage across 300 million acres of farmland in all 50 states.

“The bottom line is that the crop insurance program is successfully meeting the needs of thousands of farmers who can tailor their risk management needs to serve them best with the help of a local agent,” Davenport said.

And as farmers face significant challenges this year, Davenport emphasized to the committee that the private crop insurance industry is standing ready to provide timely assistance and “fulfill the promises of the Federal Crop Insurance Program to each and every farmer who purchased a policy.”

Farming can be unpredictable. But the federal crop insurance program provides a reliable safety net that benefits farmers and taxpayers alike.

Farm Bill Expands Crop Insurance for Young, Veteran Farmers

The future of farming depends on the next generation taking up the plow, so to speak. But the barriers to entry can be prohibitive – and prohibitively expensive.

Costs for necessary items such as machinery, seeds, or land are high and add up quickly. Not to mention it can be difficult to obtain lines of credit in the first place without access to substantial capital or insurance giving banks the peace of mind that farmers will be able to repay loans.

And all of that sweat and equity could be wiped out in the time it takes a tornado to touch down or floodwaters to rise.

Thankfully, federal crop insurance provides a valuable safety net.

Farming can be an especially daunting task for those that are a part of traditionally underserved communities, such as beginning farmers or veterans.

Many of these farmers tend to lack the equity and liquid assets necessary to begin farming, and therefore rely on loans. And most lenders require crop insurance coverage to act as a backstop should disaster strike.

Congress recognized the importance of supporting these farmers and took steps to increase their access to crop insurance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

Legislators expanded premium discounts for Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policies to those with ten years or less farming experience. Twenty-seven percent of American farmers fell into this category during the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

In addition, the Farm Bill reduced regulatory burdens for those with WFRP policies by allowing waivers for expanding operations, especially for small and beginning farmers, reducing record keeping requirements for small farmers and minimizing paperwork.

USDA data indicates that the rural population of post-9/11 veterans is growing quickly and provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill seek to increase access for those veterans who wish to enter farming. Congress included veteran farmers and ranchers as part of a new definition of underserved producers, allowing them to take advantage of improved crop insurance benefits such as additional premium discounts.

And the Farm Bill mandated that the Risk Management Agency produce an Underserved Producer Report every three years in order to continue identifying ways the federal government can reform and improve these programs in order to increase participation and better serve these communities.

In total, these reforms will help give new and veteran farmers the tools they need to effectively manage their risks.

National Crop Insurance Services recently spoke with young Iowa farmer Colin Johnson who emphasized the important role crop insurance plays in ensuring he can continue farming, saying that he “probably wouldn’t have lasted two years without… crop insurance support.”

Farming can be difficult. But access to affordable and dependable crop insurance will help pave the way for future generations of American farmers.

Crop Insurance Supports Penn. Farmers in Lean Times

Scott Bowser runs a dairy farm about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania’s famous farm country.

His dad bought the farm when he was 6 and started with a herd of 14 cows. It’s grown since then and today, Bowser farms with his wife and youngest daughter, Abby. His oldest daughter would like to come back to the family farm.

Like all dairy farmers in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, he’s felt the impact of tariffs in the international market and low commodity prices.

“You take the good with the bad,” he says. “And everybody knows, the last few years have not been so good.”

But Bowser loves it. And he wants to pass the farm down to his children.

“If you want something for your kids to take over … if that’s something that they really want to do, there has to be something there,” he says.

National Crop Insurance Services recently visited farmers across Pennsylvania to find out how they are managing to keep something here for themselves and the next generation.

Times are tough in the Commonwealth.

The state, second in the nation in dairy, lost 370 farms last year, according to USDA.

Farmers all across Pennsylvania say crop insurance – whether whole farm revenue protection or policies that cover pasture, rangeland and forage – plays a critical role in keeping family operations going.

Down the road from Bowser’s place, Jared Smith is the eight-generation farming his family’s land. He wants to pass it to his children.

“The margins in agriculture are so slim right now that I feel crop insurance gives you a level of security that you are going to have some income off the investment you are making into your crops,” he says.

It helped keep him in business last year when late season rains forced him to leave hay, meant for his cows, standing in the fields.

Bowser agrees. He went 10 years without making a claim until wet years hurt his corn and bean crops.

“Crop insurance is one of those things that when you need it, you need it real bad,” he says. “And you get that check and you’re really glad to see that check coming. You might not be in business if you didn’t have it. The risks are too great.”

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.