It has been an exceptionally difficult crop year for many of America’s farmers and ranchers as drought conditions in the West and northern Plains have distressed crops and grazing lands. Approximately 210 million acres of crops are experiencing some level of drought conditions.
Millions of farmers trust crop insurance to help manage their risks, including drought, and farmers have already spoken out about the importance of the farm safety net and crop insurance during years like these.
“Many of our risk management programs, like crop insurance, will be vitally important this year for those producers,” National Association of Wheat Growers Executive Director Chandler Goule said after touring drought-stricken wheat fields in the Dakotas and Minnesota. “Most of the producers we’ve talked to…I’m not going to say they were optimistic but very thankful they had crop insurance programs.”
While the full extent of drought damage is yet to be revealed, crop insurers are already engaged with farmers and ranchers on the ground to help them navigate this historic drought. Currently, more than 90 percent of America’s row crop farmland is protected by crop insurance, and we stand at the ready to keep America growing – no matter the size or scope of the disaster.
So, how does crop insurance respond to a historic drought? We don’t need to look very far back in the history books to find the answer.
In 2012, drought gripped America’s heartland, leaving most of the country reeling from at least some level of drought. It was one of the worst disasters to hit American agriculture in decades.
“Going out in the fields… is a thoroughly depressing experience,” Illinois farmer David Andris told National Crop Insurance Services at the time. “If we didn’t have crop insurance…this year might be the end of it for me.”
The decrease in corn production per acre in 2012 was the largest caused by a drought since 1988.
Farmer Robert Geddes emphasized the importance of having crop insurance during 2012 for the “nasty years like this.” Growers in his area had invested a lot into growing the best crop possible, only to see it lost to drought. If farmers didn’t have the safety net provided by crop insurance, “they’d truly be hurting.”
Thankfully, crop insurance performed extremely well. It quickly and efficiently delivered aid to rural America – exactly as Congress designed.
The public-private partnership of crop insurance meant that farmers weren’t left waiting for years for some form of ad-hoc disaster assistance. Private-sector insurance adjusters quickly assessed damage in the field and crop insurance companies worked swiftly to finalize more than one million claims. This gave farmers the certainty to plan for the next planting season.
Not only did crop insurance help farmers and ranchers weather the drought of 2012, ensuring the security of our food and fiber supply, but crop insurance had a positive impact throughout the rural economy.
An economic study commissioned by Farm Credit Services of America found that in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming alone, crop insurance indemnities from the 2012 drought generated enough off-farm income to save 20,900 non-farming jobs.
Our thoughts are with the farmers and ranchers who are currently dealing with this devastating drought. But history shows us that we will face this challenge together – just as we have before.