A new survey demonstrates a strong level of support for crop insurance among farmers growing a diverse set of crops across the country, and opposition to any legislative proposals that weaken this important risk management tool. The Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA), which conducted the survey, released the results this week during the annual crop insurance convention.
CIPA agents sought the opinion of farmers who use crop insurance to better understand its importance given the criticism from opponents of farm policy that advocate cutting the program.
“We set out to have clear, concise, straightforward questions to farmers: do you like crop insurance, how do you use crop insurance, what’s important about it for you,” explained Ruth Gerdes, an agent from Auburn, Nebraska. “The response was, frankly, overwhelming.”
More than 1,300 producers growing more than 20 crops in 26 states responded to the survey. Among the results:
- 96 percent oppose funding cuts to crop insurance like the one recently proposed in the White House’s FY2017 budget request;
- 97 percent oppose reopening the 2014 Farm Bill to change crop insurance;
- 94 percent oppose the AFFIRM Act, a legislative proposal introduced last year to reduce crop insurance benefits and limit coverage options;
- 97 percent prefer that crop insurance be administered by the private sector instead of the government;
- 93 percent said their banks demand crop insurance coverage before extending needed operating capital; and
- 99 percent agreed that current low commodity prices and extreme weather make crop insurance coverage and the farm bill a necessity.
“It is significant when you have well over 90 percent, upward of 97 percent of respondents saying crop insurance is everything to them,” said Gerdes.
The survey also tackled the conflicts of interest of some of the most vocal opponents of crop insurance. For example, it asked if it were appropriate for university professors to profit from designing crop insurance policies and then take money from farm policy opponents to criticize crop insurance. Ninety-four percent of respondents said, “Making money being on both sides of an issue is a conflict of interest.”
It also countered a recent report from the Center of Rural Affairs that gave the effectiveness of crop insurance a failing grade. CIPA asked farmers to grade crop insurance, and less than 1 percent agreed with the Center for Rural Affairs’ assessment with 93 percent of respondents stating it was “key to meeting the risk management needs on my farm.”
Other findings included support for private sector delivery and also agreement that crop insurance coverage is especially critical for young and beginning farmers.
“This survey reinforced what we hear in the field,” added William Cole, an agent from Batesville, Mississippi and the current chairman of CIPA. “It demonstrates the need to keep crop insurance affordable and available to a broad and diverse set of farmers across the country.”
Both Cole and Gerdes believe the survey will be useful to show lawmakers in Washington how important it is to protect crop insurance from funding cuts as Congress wrestles with budget proposals and spending bills in the coming months.
“It is clear that farmers depend on crop insurance and are willing to fight to defend a policy that helps them combat extreme weather and volatile markets,” said Cole.
Gerdes concluded, “The farm economy is fragile, so it makes it a big difference that we keep this safety net for them.”