A top official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency took to the road this week to get feedback from farmers in Pennsylvania on how new enhancements to federal crop insurance are helping organic producers.
Associate Administrator Tim Gannon visited two farms in Chambersburg, Pa., on Tuesday (April 19). He was accompanied by other RMA officials as well as Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture. The group met with Jason and Tony Forrester, cousins who have multiple farms in the Chambersburg area. Both have federal crop insurance policies that cover certified organic crops including corn, soybeans and wheat.
“I don’t ever bat an eye at paying my premium,” said Jason Forrester, who has nearly 900 acres, all certified organic or in transition. “If not me, I know some farmer, somewhere, is going to need it.”
Last year, USDA reported that U.S. certified and exempt organic farms sold a total of $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008. There were more than 6,000 organic crop insurance policies in effect in 2014.
“Since 2009, USDA has strengthened programs that support organic producers as they grow, thrive and respond to increasing consumer demand for organic products,” said Associate Administrator Gannon.
“There’s such a high market demand for organics,” said Deputy Secretary Smith-Brubaker, who herself is a producer in Pennsylvania.
“You don’t even have to advertise your organics. They come to you,” said Forrester, who sells some products to a local creamery operation right down the street from one of his farms. “And I’ve got a guy in Oregon who is bugging me for my corn.”
Among the changes discussed Tuesday for 2016 was the Contract Price Addendum, which allows producers transitioning to certified organic to cover their production of 73 eligible crops at a higher price than traditional crops. Also in 2016, RMA continued to add to the number of crops eligible for an organic premium price election.
“That’s now up to 57 for the 2017 crop year,” Associate Administrator Gannon said.
“We got a lot of good feedback today,” Gannon said. “RMA is constantly seeking input from producers on how we can improve crop insurance products, which have become such a huge part of the safety net available to American ranchers and farmers.”
Ask the farmers, and they’ll tell you that organic producers sometimes have to march to the beat of a different drum.
“We get some good-natured grief from some of our neighbors,” Tony Forrester said. “They’ll come over and say ‘What’s going on? You started planting yet?’”
More information on risk management tools available for agricultural producers is available at the RMA website. That includes a fact sheet on the Contract Price Addendum and other information specifically geared toward organic and transitioning farmers.
Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. Producers can contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about the program. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers or here on the RMA site.