Crop Insurance… Seriously??

Okay, so I realize this blog won’t appeal to very many of my viewers, potentially, but I have to share.  We have never been eligible for crop insurance.  Until recently.  Crop insurance, for those of you who are still reading, is used by farmers to protect against crop failure, natural disasters (think hail, tornadoes, and floods), and the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities.  In Missouri, from the USDA, it costs $250 per crop (I grow over 90 crops!!), but thankfully has a $750 cap.  There is also a fee that is calculated based on the number of acres you grow, and about 5 other statistics all multiplied together and then multiplied by 5 point something or other.  If you are a big farmer dude, this fee is a pretty big number, and really dwarfs the $750 initial price tag.  These numbers are for basic coverage, which will pay the farmer 50% of their lost crops’ value.  If farmer Brown wants a premium policy (say, that will pay up to 65% of his crops’ value), then the cost goes up.  Got it?  There’s a lot more to it than that, but that will get us started.

So, as a specialty farmer, I’ve never really considered crop insurance.  We just seem…so… well…small.  And I think of crop insurance as really representing BIG AG.  And as much as I have had family members who get their paychecks from BIG AG, I am really, really, not in the BIG AG and Crop Insurance frame of mind…just a little organic farmer, you know?

But… when a family member emailed me to remind me that I may potentially be eligible, I thought I would check it out.  Do you want the good news or the bad news first?  Well, because I am a female farmer, I am considered socio-disadvantaged or something like that (hand on head, swooning motion), AND I am a beginner farmer, as I have been considered a commercial grower for less than 10 years.  THUS… my insurance would be free.  FREE!  FREE!  Sounding like a possibility, yes?  No.

Here’s the good part.  The very pleasant lady on the other end of the phone said I had to keep records of crop quantities.  I said that would be no problem, as I am certified organic and already keep production records.  Alas, that is NOT what she meant.  In order to use crop insurance you have to keep field records of quantity picked and VERIFIABLE RECORDS OF QUANTITIES SOLD… as in for every item sold at the farmers market, I would have to record the items sold, and the customer would have to SIGN a receipt… then I would have to take all those sales and organize them so they were accessible.  For instance if someone bought cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and red tomatoes, I would have to record EACH of them separately… same goes for squash… a Howden pumpkin has to be recorded separately from a Japanese pumpkin or a kabocha (which they classify as a pumpkin)…   I explained to her that I grow over 700 crop rotations of different varieties… she said she would turn the list into the state who would then provide the classifications that I would have to track… so you see where this is going.  No where.

And it gets better.  I asked one more question.  Who sets the price for the crop failure pay-outs and how much would it be for potatoes, for example?  The state sets the price and last year potatoes were valued at $7.60 per 100 pounds.  Which would mean that I would get $3.80 per 100 pounds of potato failure…  there aren’t enough ‘dot dot dots’ for me to put at the end of that sentence…  That was PER ONE HUNDRED POUNDS…  Just in case a few of you haven’t checked the price of organic potatoes at markets lately, they are typically $3.50 or $4 PER pound when the potatoes are fresh dug and sell out quickly (and depending on variety), and decline to about $2.50 or $3 PER pound by the end of the season.

So… favorite customers of mine… YOU are my crop insurance!  If I have an epic failure in the potato field, I know you will buy onions instead.  You’ll buy an extra helping of carrots and tomatoes.  You’ll try a kohlrabi and grab some greens.   And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And that is priceless.

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