The Southern Plains continues to roast in a nine-month record-setting drought, with farmers reeling from cotton fields that have never even germinated. Inland along America's major waterways record flooding caused millions of acres of corn and rice to be lost or never even planted in an area that stretches from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.
Larry Combest, a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, says it's years like this that Congress needs to be reminded that policies need to be kept in place that protect farmers from the inevitable wild market fluctuations or devastating weather conditions that are a constant variable in agriculture
"It's been an unusual year in the fact that I think it has drawn attention to the plight that is faced out there by farmers," Combest said. "Crop insurance provides a safety net, it provides a good risk management tool."
Combest notes that often times in rural America it's the lenders who can give the best thumbnail sketch regarding how agriculture in general is faring, and specifically how farmers are doing from year to year. Combest says lenders are quick to offer their opinions on the best risk management tools available to help America's farmers manage their risky businesses and survive disaster to farm yet another year.
"Almost without exception one of the first things out of their mouths was crop insurance," Combest said. "A person can go in, they can insure that crop, and the idea is of course is to cover the variable expenses that have been put in on that crop, and it has done so successfully in the past."
Combest cautions however, that crop insurance has endured several major cuts in the last several years, totaling more than $12 billion. He fears further cuts to this vital program will leave it ineffective or incapable of helping farmers manage the various risks that are out of their control.
"We're trying to raise the fact that this program works very well," Combest said. "And it is an extremely efficient way for money to be spent; if they keep this cutting away at it, it is eventually going to decimate it."
Combest says that would leave farmers fending for themselves the next time disaster strikes, which would be bad for agriculture and bad for consumers.