Nov 15, 2017
Introducing Field Views, a new contribution series looking at ag policy issues from a grower perspective. Posts in this series are written by soy growers from across the country.
My husband started farming the same year we got engaged - and we put about the same amount of thought into each. This is to say, we didn’t think about either much at all.
We were 21 and 22 years old, driven by emotions more than reason, so we got married and started farming. Looking back now, I think both of those decisions require just that – throwing logic out the window and following your heart. If you stopped to analyze the work involved, you could never logically justify either.
Both also required a third party approval from the person who was funding the adventure. My dad was an easy sell; he picked up the tab for the dress and party without much hesitation. Our lender, on the other hand, was not so easily convinced.
Although the risk of losing everything, which at that point was really nothing, wasn't enough to give us cold feet, it was enough to justify a denial from our lender. Crop insurance was the offsetting strength to our negative equity balance sheet. It was the safeguard our lender needed to take a gamble on us.
Protecting crop insurance is vital to protecting the ability of young and beginning (YB) farmers to enter the market. In an industry where the average farmer is 58 years old and record transitions are expected to take place in the upcoming years, we are in dire need of new people starting to farm.
According to the USDA, net farm income has decreased 42% over the last three years. Decreased net income is disproportionally challenging to those YB farmers who often have not had the time and resources to develop the cash reserves it takes to successfully weather downturns. Continued access to affordable insurance is imperative to helping our YB farmers continue to farm through those down cycles.
Protecting cost and access for YB farmers and all producers goes beyond support of premium assistance. It should also mean access of the programs to all farmers without adjusted gross income caps. When some operators are excluded, it shrinks the risk pool and therefore increases the cost of those remaining in the pool.
Young and beginning farm families like ours will continue to rely on crop insurance in order to have access to capital and the security that allow us to make long term decisions for our farm. We do not have the ability to opt out in the face of increased costs, which would significantly impact our profitability and our ability to continue farming.
Crop insurance, often coined as a “handout to millionaire farmers”, is actually the safety net young farm families like ours need to start and continue farming. Protecting crop insurance is not cheap, and it is a cost shared by all Americans. But so too, is the benefit of having access to the safest, most affordable food supply in the world, raised by family farms.
Kate is a working farm wife, mother and agvocate in Missouri. Visit her blog UptownGirl at UptownGirlBlog.com