RMA Administrator Talks Crop Insurance at Minnesota Ag Leadership Conference

RMA Administrator Brandon Willis

What if farmers didn’t have the option to purchase crop insurance and instead had to wait for congress to pass an ad-hoc disaster bill if a weather-related event led to significant crop loss? Would the same congress that can’t pass a farm bill and sent us over the fiscal cliff act quickly enough — or at all — to assist farmers?

Thankfully, farmers are able to invest in their own protection and overcome weather events such as last year’s drought in the Midwest or this year’s wet Minnesota spring. Crop insurance has replaced ad-hoc disaster bills, saving taxpayers money and taking politics out of disaster relief.

Crop insurance sounds like common sense, right? Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

“As it’s grown, crop insurance has also become a target,” said Brandon Willis, administrator for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Willis spoke Monday at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s Ag Leadership Conference in Brainerd and highlighted three areas that RMA is focusing on in order to keep crop insurance strong:

  • Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. We’ve all seen the impact one negative newspaper story or “expose” on the television news can do to a program or organization. Even though isolated incidents may not indicate a large-scale problem, if the public perceives corruption — no matter how misguided that perception may be — it tarnishes the entire thing.
    “Fraud, waste and abuse is the quickest way to bring down any program,” Willis said. “One article can do a lot of damage.”

    Willis went on to highlight how RMA dealt with a high-profile fraud case earlier this year and how data monitoring practices have helped identify possible fraud cases early.

  • Education. Go ask local business owners in your area what they know about crop insurance. Odds are, they will give you a funny look or say something about “corporate welfare” for farmers. One of the reasons crop insurance has come under attack is because people don’t understand the risks associated with farming and how crop insurance helps mitigate some of those risks.

    There are fewer farmers today than ever before. That also means that there are fewer non-farmers with some sort of connection to the farm. Without the support of non-farmers — whether they have some direct connection to agriculture or not — crop insurance won’t survive.
    “Ultimately, crop insurance needs the public’s support,” Willis said.

  • Expand to organic and livestock farmers. “Crop insurance is about piece of mind,” Willis said. “It ensures that entire generations of farming won’t be undone by a single weather event.”
    Willis also said that by expanding crop insurance to other types of farmers, it increases program sustainability and strengthens it overall.

A strong crop insurance program has worked for farmers and boosted other sectors of the economy, especially in rural areas. It’s important to continue dispelling myths about crop insurance and showing the benefits it brings to farmers and non-farmers.


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