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Helping to Lower the Risks, Now and into the Future

By Marcia Bunger

In 2023, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) helped provide the largest farm safety net in history, a record $207 billion in protection for American agriculture. Crop insurance covers 540 million acres, an 83% increase since 2013. This year alone, we’ve introduced five new crop insurance programs and improved eight others.  

RMA has also taken steps to address climate change and to better support a broader range of producers.  We have made a concerted effort to seek feedback and ideas from you- America's farmers and farm organizations. Program improvements are in response to your engagement.  

Climate-Smart Agriculture 

One of the leading priorities of the USDA is the support and promotion of climate-smart agriculture. Thanks to recent investments, our agricultural communities are prepared to implement climate-smart practices and solutions. Here at RMA, we’ve been able to make significant advancements toward these goals, like committing to improved water conservation practices through the expansion of our Hybrid Seed Rice crop insurance program.  

This expansion will provide coverage for rice grown in furrow irrigated or intermittent flooded fields. In addition, RMA recently updated the Good Farming Practices Handbook,  recognizing all conservation practices offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as Good Farming Practices for crop insurance. These initiatives are all part of our agency’s broader efforts to support conservation and climate-smart activities as well as to improve crop insurance for agricultural producers.  

Our most significant climate-smart achievement in 2023 was also an investment in global food security.  In response to the invasion of Ukraine and the potential grain shortages that could emerge due to the conflict, RMA expanded the double cropping coverage availability in 1,500 counties so that farmers could produce more winter wheat, sorghum and soybeans through relay cropping.  

By encouraging the successional use of land, this expanded insurance opportunity addresses climate change, soil degradation, and depletion of natural resources, all of which are challenges for crop productivity and environmental sustainability.  

Relay cropping in particular can be a great tool for crop diversification and soil health with the potential of increasing overall production value on the same acreage. As a result of the expanded coverage availability and streamlining, RMA increased insured double crop soybean and grain sorghum acres by over 1 million acres when compared to prior averages, an increase of 49%.  

Reaching Underserved Producers 

In the past year, we also focused on our priority of reaching and providing resources to those of you in underserved communities. We always want to make sure that we are serving all of our Nation’s diverse agricultural communities by listening directly to your input and feedback in 2023. We have now made changes to our programs that will allow us to serve even more producers in the years to come.  

We kicked off an amazing year of producer engagement by coming straight to you through our RMA Roadshow. The Roadshow was a series of virtual and in-person events launched in 2023 that focused on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm programs. We also held listening sessions for apple growers, shellfish producers, and regions of the country impacted by drought. In total, we were able to offer 600 events this year alone, reaching more than 200,000 stakeholders. 

We also took your feedback to heart when looking at ways to offer new risk management resources like we did for oyster producers with our new Shellfish Crop Insurance Program and with grapes (wine, juice, etc.) through our new Grapevine Insurance Program. These are great examples of how we listen to you and use that information to improve and grow. 

Risk Management Education 

Producer feedback goes hand-in-hand with our education and outreach efforts. It is vital to make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best choices you can to protect yourselves and your operations. That is why we at RMA have invested more than $13 million since 2021  in education and training programs for farmers and ranchers, including underserved, and small-scale farmers, and those involved or interested in organic and climate-smart farm practices. Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production 

A field that we specifically focused on in 2023 is with urban farmers and innovative producers. We are proud to have had the opportunity to make improvements to the products that best serve these growers, such as improving Whole-Farm Revenue Protection so producers can qualify for 80% and 85% coverage levels and purchase catastrophic coverage level policies for individual crops.  

We also made significant improvements to Micro Farm, adding flexibilities so policyholders can purchase other crop policies as well as providing coverage for vertically integrated producers. We also created a new crop insurance program designed for agricultural producers who use controlled environments in their operations. This is specifically for plants grown in fully enclosed controlled environments and provides coverage against plant diseases subject to destruction orders. This program will greatly benefit urban, specialty crop, organic and other producers who grow in controlled environments-a quickly growing sector of the agricultural economy. 

Improving Insurance Options 

We are always looking for ways to improve and expand upon existing risk management tools. One example that comes to mind is expansion of our Enterprise Unit possibilities, which allows producers to insure all acres of the insured crop in the county together, as opposed to other unit structures that separate the acreage for insurance. In 2023, we added more than a dozen crops-like buckwheat, millet, and sesame. This expansion is in direct response to your input and requests for Enterprise Units and will provide you and so many others with more options to manage your risk.  

Two other great improvements from this past year are the margin protection and the tropical storm programs. In March, I was so proud that, guided by your feedback, we were able to announce the expansion of the Margin Protection insurance plan to more than a thousand counties. This product provides coverage against an unexpected decrease in operating margin for corn and soybean producers. Last year, we announced the expansion of the hurricane crop insurance policy to also cover the impacts of tropical storms, and 60% of policies elected the additional coverage which helped producers immensely. The tropical storm option provided $71 million to impacted producers after Hurricane Idalia. 

Source : farmers.gov

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