Lawmakers have painted a target on farm subsidy programs for hefty budget cuts, and Federal crop insurance will likely be on the chopping block. When budget cuts are finalized, let’s hope they haven’t cut the muscle from the crop insurance program - a cornerstone of U.S. farm policy.
There is no doubt that action is necessary to curb the nation’s out-of-control spending. According to projections from the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2011 will reach $1.28 trillion. U.S. farmers are ready to make a sacrifice because they want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. However, they should not shoulder a larger percentage in cutbacks than everyone else.
Congress wants to pare budgets they believe will cause the least political damage and, to many politicians, agriculture leaps to mind. Since only 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in farming, politicians seeking reelection believe they will not suffer too badly at the polls.
It is critical to farmers across the country that the basic mission of crop insurance remains effectively intact. In a year of drought, extreme heat and unprecedented flooding, the need for a continued robust crop insurance program is evident.
Each day on my way to the office, I pass prime crop fields that lie near the Missouri River. To this day, they are still covered by floodwaters. I estimate it is around 1,000 acres that are typically planted to corn. This year, those acres will produce nothing.
It is the same in many areas along the Mighty Mo. Some estimates place fields under water along the Missouri River at 1 million acres.
The Mississippi River floods earlier this spring were among the most damaging recorded along that waterway in the past century. For the first time in 37 years, the Morganza Spillway was opened on May 14, deliberately flooding nearly 3 million acres.
And then there is drought and the merciless heat wave in the southern Plains and Southwest. The odds are great that one of these catastrophes reduced yields on farms regardless of where they lie.
Few of us face the kind of risk that U.S. farmers must contend with each time they plant a crop. This year is a case in point of the need for a strong safety net.
Yet critics of crop insurance say it should be handled like other insurance products, such as for cars and homes, for which policyholders don't receive federal dollars. What the critics fail to grasp is the fact that each U.S. farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide.
You may wonder, "how many do those critics feed"? The answer is probably zero.
These critics undoubtedly are clueless on the necessity of such things as operating loans and lines of credit farmers need to cover input and equipment costs. For many farmers after a year like 2011, obtaining them would be impossible without crop insurance.
Farmers face an incredible challenge as the global population is expected to swell to 9 billion over the next few decades. In order to meet this demand, agriculture must double output. We need U.S. farmers to remain in sound financial condition if we’re going to meet this challenge.
Agriculture is the backbone of the U.S. economy. While it is essential that we reduce government spending, it is equally important that we continue to support U.S. farmers by helping them address their risk management needs. After all, they bring a lot to our tables.