Crop insurance reaches 311 million acres
PHOENIX — The number of acres enrolled in crop insurance reached 311 million, an area roughly the size of California, Texas and New York, a key crop insurance industry official said this week during the Crop Insurance Industry Convention.
“Today, crop insurance protects around 90 percent of the insurable land and more than 130 different kinds of crops,” said Mike Day, who chairs National Crop Insurance Services, an industry support group and heads Rural Community Insurance Services for Zurich North America.
“Congress made crop insurance the cornerstone of farm policy, and it is important not just for farmers and rural communities, but for taxpayers and consumers alike,” Day added.
He also told the group insurers backed more than $106 billion worth of crops in 2017, up $6 billion since 2016. Farmers paid $3.7 billion out of their own pockets for insurance protection — a more than $250 million increase from the year before. The federal government pays about 62 percent of the cost of crop insurance premiums.
Day said critics are “angling to cut crop insurance funding in the upcoming farm bill debate” and said that any action to make crop insurance less affordable would “undo all the progress that has been made over the past three decades” in using the program to stabilize farm income.
NCIS President Tom Zacharias said the farmers and industry worked together to defend crop insurance as farmers’ primary risk management tool, and urged his colleagues to maintain their vigilance in providing customer service and coordinating with the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency, which oversees the program.
“Farmers must continue to realize the economic value of today’s crop insurance system and have confidence that both government and the private sector are committed to its continued success,” Zacharias said.
In a separate session, Ashley Hungerford of the USDA Office of the Chief Economist said farmers’ enrollment in crop insurance continued to grow and there was particularly strong growth in policies to protect pasture and rangeland.
The impact of the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate policies that allowed farmers to purchase a 10 percent buy-up option for prevented planting is unknown, she said. The 10 percent buy-up option as known for being particularly popular in North Dakota and South Dakota, but rice growers and corn and soybean growers took out more buy-up prevented planting policies than is usually recognized.
Hungerford said the 5 percent buy-up policies for prevented planting are still available.