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Crop insurance: a prudent tool to protect farmers' investments

Crop insurance: a prudent tool to protect farmers' investments
Lately I’ve been visiting with a lot of farmers who’ve been slogging through the mud to get their corn and soybean fields planted. Most people figure about a million acres in Iowa just won’t be planted this spring because it’s been way too wet.

The irony is that a few months ago many of those same fields desperately needed moisture after Iowa was scorched by the worst drought since in a half century.

How do farmers survive in such erratic weather conditions? With a lot of hard work, patience and, like all prudent business people everywhere, they invest in insurance. With costs of seed, fertilizer and other supplies growing like weeds, it only makes sense to pay the premiums and buy insurance to help protect against weather risks as they work to put food on our tables, just as business owners buy insurance to protect their investments.

Lately some critics have complained that farmers are making unfair profits on crop insurance. They say farmers are actually praying for drought or other crop problems, so they can collect the insurance payouts.

That’s not at all 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.

It was the same around the country. After premiums and deductibles, farmers paid about $17 billion for crop insurance and received just about the same back in payouts after a drought that rivaled the Dust Bowl years.

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, even with the devastating drought.

The accusation that farmers are praying for crop problems is really absurd. This spring I watched farmers continue to try to plant corn, even as the calendar flipped to mid-June and crop experts warned it was really too late to expect a normal harvest. It would have been have easy for farmers to throw in the towel because they had already paid premiums to buy crop insurance. But they kept looking for clear skies, drier fields and an opportunity chance to plant.

Raising food and providing consumers with the widest array of food choices in history is a risky business in increasingly erratic weather. It only makes sense for farmers, and for consumers, to protect those crops with insurance.

  Written by Dirck Steimel. Dirck is the editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.