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A necessary safety net for erratic weather

A necessary safety net for erratic weather
It’s certainly been a crazy, topsy-turvy 12 months of weather here in Iowa, hasn’t it?

Last weekend, as I watched snow blow around my yard, my mind went back to a Sunday afternoon exactly a year earlier when I was on a long bike ride wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Last year I worried about sunburn, this year the primary concern was frost bite.

And then there was last summer. After years of serious flooding, Iowa was scorched by the worst drought in decades. The hot, dry weather scorched lawns, withered crops and made life pretty miserable all around.

While we talk about the weather all the time, for most of us it’s not really a factor in our daily lives or how we make a living. About the only weather-related adjustments most of us need to make is which coat to wear and whether to grab an umbrella as we head to work.

But weather is a big deal for farmers. Their economic fortunes are tied directly to the weather, no matter how unpredictable it can be. They invest more dollars every year to plant and nurture their fields. So when a drought or flood damages crops, it hits farmers’ right in the pocketbook.

That’s why the risk protection offered by the crop insurance program is so important for farmers and, really, for all of Iowa.

Farmers rely on crop insurance to protect them from disasters like the 2012 drought. They pay insurance companies premiums up front, just like everyone does when they insure their car or house. And like a car or homeowners coverage, crop insurance only covers farmers’ losses when the harvest falls well short of expectations.

Lately some articles in the media have speculated that Iowa farmers are making unfair profits on crop insurance. That’s not what I see.

Actually, most years the premiums Iowa farmers pay to purchase crop insurance far exceed what they ever get back in payouts. Even after the drought last year, the farmers I talked with received some of the first insurance payouts in their farming careers. Others didn’t get any payouts after all because their crops produced more grain than expected and it allowed them to break even.

And the dollars from those insurance payments aren’t lining farmers’ pockets. Farmers use them to buy seed, feed and other farm supplies, along with groceries, clothes and all of the other goods every family needs. And that helped propel Iowa’s overall economy forward in 2012, even with the devastating drought.

In an era of erratic weather crop insurance provides farmers, and all of Iowa, a vital and necessary safety net.

 Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau