At the Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week, crop insurance supporters discussed the farm bill's impacts on the industry and 2013 statistics with a visit from USDA's Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
The convention, wrapping up Wednesday, focused on the way forward for crop insurance, even into the next decade.
"If I had to sum up the story of the crop insurance industry in one simple statement, I think it would have to be 'We've made a lot progress but our best years remain ahead of us,'" said Tim Weber, Chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers and National Crop Insurance Services.
"We applaud our congressional leaders for overwhelmingly passing a Farm Bill that strengthens, not weakens, our commitment to crop insurance even in the face of federal spending pressure," Weber said.
"I truly believe that 10 years down the road, when we look back at the 2014 Farm Bill, it will be elevated to one of the major legislative initiatives that established landmark developments for crop insurance and production agriculture."
Stabenow, called on to discuss the major changes to crop insurance in the farm bill, agreed, noting that the crop insurance provisions provide a "foundation" for bill and a farm safety net. Stabenow, the Chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee, also highlighted changes for specialty growers, and explained that changes allow the program to provide savings to taxpayers.
"The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance…and they don't get help unless they really need it," Stabenow said referring to the premiums farmers pay and the indemnities that are only received after losses are verified.
Also speaking on farm bill changes, Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis addressed the convention, discussing plans for farm bill and crop insurance implementation.
"There is not an agency that I would rather implement a Farm Bill with than the team that we have at the Risk Management Agency. I have a high degree of confidence that the staff we have there will get this done right," he said. "Throughout the process, we will work with our [private sector] partners, because I know you bring valuable experience…and a perspective that we don't have," he said.
Willis noted that the administration would prioritize implementation based on those programs that affect the most growers. He specifically mentioned ensuring a 2015 signup for the STAX program that provides enhanced insurance protection for cotton farmers and the new Supplemental Coverage Option for growers of other crops.
Constantly improving crop insurance availability, program integrity, and communicating with farmers and the general public should be top goals of both the industry and RMA moving forward, he said.
Recapping a positive year for the industry, NCIS and AACI also revealed notable statistics for 2013 at the convention:
• Farmers spent $4.5 billion to purchase insurance policies, up from $4.1 billion in 2012. This brings farmers' total investment in crop insurance to $38 billion since 2000.
• 52,000 more policies were sold in 2013 than 2012.
• Crop insurance protected $123 billion of potential liabilities last year, as compared to $117 billion in 2012 and $114 billion in 2011.
• A record 296 million acres, or 90% of insurable cropland, was covered by crop insurance in 2013. U.S. farmers protected 86% of eligible acres in 2012 and 84% of acres in 2011.
• To date, 423,000 policies have been indemnified in 2013, a sharp fall from the record of 495,000 in 2012. As a result, taxpayer costs dropped considerably.
"The fact that farmers were able to bounce back from the worst drought in decades and plant bumper crops, all without a call for disaster assistance to Congress, underscores the value farmers place on crop insurance and why they are protecting a record number of acres," said Tom Zacharias, president of NCIS.
"Crop insurance is the risk management tool of choice for farmers, ranchers, farm leaders, bankers and members of Congress for one reason: it works," he said.