Capital Press: The Great Crop Insurance Debate

Last week, Capital Press published a great piece on crop insurance focusing on how it is the only guarantee of help when disaster strikes for farmers. The piece opens with an interview with NAWG Secretary and Paterson, WA wheat farmer Nicole Berg who talks about the role that crop insurance plays on her farm:

Berg, who is now secretary of the National Association of Wheat Growers, and her family instead received a payment from the crop insurance they bought that year for about 70 percent of their farm’s average production, about 25 bushels per acre, minus the wheat remaining in the field that they decided not to harvest.

The scenario is not unusual. In many areas across the West, Midwest and South, farmers can experience multi-year droughts, Berg said.

Even with crop insurance, “when you get back-to-back-to-back drought, you’re just basically paying your bills and that’s about it,” Berg said. “You can’t buy new machinery, you can’t turn the corner to help keep up with maintenance. There’s just not enough money.”

Wheat farmers can’t remain viable without crop insurance, Berg said. “Over time, over the long-term, they would go out of business.”

The article also takes a look at the viewpoints from from crop insurance critics. The Environmental Working Group and the Heritage Foundation both view crop insurance as a subsidy and have argued that taxpayers should know how much crop insurance support farmers receive.

NAWG CEO Chandler Goule counters with “while improvements to crop insurance can be made, getting rid of it or shrinking the program so that only small farmers have access would only increase the cost to all farmers.”

Groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the EWG want to get rid of crop insurance, Goule says. Their messages are well-crafted for a Washington, D.C., crowd, and for members of Congress from urban areas, designed to raise money and are usually misleading and false, he said.

Very few farmers could be viable without crop insurance, Goule said: those who have been farming a long time, and are at the point where they can weather two or three years of drought.

But that’s a small, single-digit percentage of growers, he said.

Goule expects attacks on crop insurance to continue.

“It’s getting harder and harder every year,” he said. “We should never let up on our continuous support for crop insurance.”

The debate around crop insurance doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. Regardless, crop insurance is critical for wheat growers who rely on this safety net when unexpected disaster strikes. Crop insurance doesn’t allow farmers to make a profit, rather it enables them to be able to farm another year. Growers would much rather get a return on their crop but sometimes mother nature has different plans.

To read this piece in its entirety, visit Capital Press online.