Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Record-Breaking $17 Billion in Crop Loss Stresses Need for Federal Insurance Program Reform

Food

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Dana Gunders

Extreme weather means lost food as drought, flood and other weather-related farming hazards threaten and destroy crops. But what are we to do, since we can’t fight weather? Or can we?

As we enter this new frontier of the wild, wild weather, one of the most promising strategies for reducing both the material and financial losses is to build the resilience of our farms. Practices such as cover cropping, no-till and efficient irrigation have shown to reduce crop losses associated with extreme weather. Faced with a future of untold numbers of drastic weather events, we would be silly not to use every tool in our toolbox to promote these types of water-smart, climate-proofing practices.

On Tuesday, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report, Soil Matters: How the Federal Crop Insurance Program should be reformed, outlining a strategy to use one of the most prevalent farming risk management tools, the FCIP, to encourage more resilience on our farms.

Fortunately, farmers who lose crops due to extreme weather are covered through the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), which reimburses them when those disasters hit. Unfortunately, the bill—a large portion of which is paid by the American public—has been skyrocketing alongside the increased rate of extreme weather events. In 2011, FCIP paid out a record-breaking $10.8 billion in crop insurance claims to farmers, many of whom suffered during the historic Mississippi River basin floods that year. FCIP broke that record in 2012, when indemnities topped an all-time high of $17.3 billion, mostly due to severe drought. Nearly $8.4 billion of those total crop loss payouts were funded directly by taxpayers.

Corn farmers in states that were most impacted by the 2012 drought—Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas—received nearly $4 billion in indemnities due to drought loss. However, the average cover cropping corn farmer’s yields did not go below the average yield that would trigger an insurance claim payment in these states. Cover cropped fields yielded an average of 122 bushels of corn per acre in these states, while non-cover cropped fields yielded only 106 bushels of corn per acre on average.

This 15 percent increase in yield for the average cover cropping farmer meant he/she did not hit the crop insurance “deductible,” and therefore most of the money paid out in these states went to corn farmers who did not use cover crops. Effectively, this means we are penalizing farmers who are working to build their resilience, to reduce their losses, to ultimately save both the crops themselves and the payments the American public is paying out.

If farmers planting cover crops don’t experience the same losses, shouldn’t they get a “good driver” credit on their insurance premium? Right now, FCIP premium rates are non-competitively set by the Risk Management Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While setting those rates, why not take the opportunity to reward those who are practicing preventative measures (especially when those same measures are saving water, fertilizer and erosion occurrence)? 

Earlier this year, we published a survey on crop losses in fruits and vegetables to examine what was driving the losses. A good portion of the losses were due to economic drivers, such as low prices at the time of harvest. Weather and pests were of course mentioned too, as inherent risks to the businesses that were difficult to ameliorate. Difficult, yes—we all know you can’t change the weather—but what we can do is take steps to defy its effect by setting ourselves up with the healthiest soil, most efficient irrigation and least amount of erosion possible. 

To do this, let’s give farmers who cost the system less the premium breaks they are due.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE and FOOD pages for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Activists of Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demonstrate on a canal in front of the cooling tower of the coal-fired power plant Datteln 4 of power supplier Uniper in Datteln, western Germany, on May 20. INA FASSBENDER / AFP / Getty Images

The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Tara Lohan

Would you like to take a crack at solving climate change? Or at least creating a road map of how we could do it?

Read More Show Less
Climate campaigners and Indigenous peoples across Canada have spent the past several years protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. Mark Klotz / Flickr / cc

By Elana Sulakshana

Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Leah Campbell

After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.

Read More Show Less
Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less