During a meeting with reporters this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted crop insurance “has come under unfair criticism,” adding, “Those who report on it don’t understand it and its importance to the food supply.”
“Over the last 15 years, crop insurance is where we have been trying to help move farmers in terms of taking advantage of risk management tools for their crops … It is still the central focus of where we think farmers ought to be able to have easy access to insure their crops and insure some type of revenue out of it. It makes the most sense to me and always has.”
- Farmers pay about $4 billion a year out of their own pockets for crop insurance coverage.
- Farmers must shoulder significant losses through deductibles before crop insurance kicks in – about $13 billion in losses last year alone.
- Crop insurance companies help cover losses and actually lose money in bad years to help shield taxpayers. When’s the last time you heard of an insurance company losing money?
- In good years, the government actually makes underwriting gains on farmers’ premiums, which helps offset the bad years.
- U.S. farm policy spending is in steady decline and has been since crop insurance’s rise to prominence.
- Crop insurance spending has been cut $12 billion since 2008, making agriculture one of the few industries to help curb deficit spending.
- While U.S. farm spending is declining, our foreign competitors are rapidly increasing their subsidies and trade barriers.
- Crop insurance has been fine-tuned for decades to help protect taxpayers and replace costly ad-hoc disaster bills.
With the world’s population exploding and just a thin green line of 210,000 full-time U.S. farms to feed the hungry, America needs more farmers than ever. And it needs a strong farm policy now more than ever.
Of course, critics would probably be hesitant to take out millions in loans or put their family’s future at risk for a profession that is constantly at the mercy of the weather and steep market fluctuations.
So, maybe they could start with a small garden in their backyard or windowsill. After countless hours of working the soil, nurturing seedlings, and fending off insects, critters, and wild weather, they will have a much better appreciation of what farmers do on a much, much larger scale.