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Making Crop Insurance Work for All Farmers

The crop insurance program provides critical protections for farmers. Often called the farm “safety net,” the program started in 1930s when many farms were decimated by the Dust Bowl and low commodity prices, as a way of protecting American farmers from the uncertainties of weather and market fluctuations.

Today, crop insurance is the single largest agricultural subsidy program in the federal budget.

The U.S. government pays an average of 62 percent of the cost of federal crop insurance for farmers. Less than 20 corporations receive subsidies to cover the operating costs of offering insurance. 

Meanwhile, diversified and organic farms have trouble accessing insurance, and must tackle mountains of paperwork before they can even qualify.

Crop insurance is an important tool for protecting farmers, but the program currently excludes many types of farms and farmers, presents barriers to farmers that want to implement sustainable practices, and subsidizes farm consolidation.

  • In 2011, 2 percent of farmers received premium subsidies averaging $82,223, while the other 98 percent of farms received an average of just over $7,600.
  • Unlimited subsidy of crop insurance premiums provides the largest producers with revenue to buy more land. This inflates land prices beyond the reach of many family farmers, including small and beginning producers.
  • Most individual policies, including those for specialty and organic crops, discourages farmers growing crops that are best suited to the land, the climate, and regional markets.
  • A significant number of farmers interested in trying cover crops did not do so because they were afraid of the negative repercussions to their crop insurance.

We need to level the playing field for family farmers, protect beginning farmers' access to land and credit, encourage environmental stewardship, and remove disincentives to innovation and diversified farming.

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The success of our policy work relies on OEFFA's dedicated members, who are leading the way to strong and healthy local food systems. For more information about OEFFA's policy work or to get involved, contact policy@oeffa.org or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

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