Crop Insurance is an insurance policy, purchased by a farmer or rancher, partially underwritten by the federal government that insures crops and livestock against price volatility and/or weather losses. It provides the income needed to settle forward contracts, or futures and options positions in case of a disaster that affects yields or prices. Crop Insurance allows farmers and ranchers to customize their plans and coverage to accurately reflect losses or their unique yields or risks.
Crop Insurance is available for 128 different crops and can be modified to address specific risks, crops grown, and overall tolerance to risk. It protects farmers and ranchers from both market swings and natural disasters.
HOW IT WORKS*
Two types of crop insurance are available to farmers in the United States: Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) and Crop-Hail.
Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI)
MPCI policies must be purchased prior to planting and cover loss of crop yields from all types of natural causes including drought, excessive moisture, freeze, and disease. Newer coverage options combine yield protection and price protection to guard farmers against potential loss in revenue, whether due to low yields or changes in market price.
Under the Federal Crop Insurance Program’s unique public-private partnership, there are currently 19 private companies authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (USDA RMA) to write MPCI policies. The service delivery side of the program — writing and reinsuring the policies, marketing, adjusting and processing claims, training and record-keeping, etc. — is handled by each private company. The program is overseen and regulated by the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The RMA sets the rates that can be charged and determines which crops can be insured in different parts of the country. The private companies are obligated to sell insurance to every eligible farmer who requests it and retains a large portion of the risk on over 80 percent of the policies written.
The federal government also subsidizes the farmer-paid premiums to reduce the cost to farmers. In addition, it provides reimbursement to the private insurance companies to offset operating and administrative costs that would otherwise be paid by farmers as part of their premium. Through this federal support, crop insurance remains affordable to a majority of America’s farmers and ranchers.
By combining the regulatory authority and financial support of the federal government with the efficiencies of the private sector, the crop insurance program has succeeded in meeting and even surpassing the goals set forth by Congress for broad participation, diversity and inclusion. By using the private sector, risk is shared among the private companies as well as the government.
Crop-Hail policies are not part of the Federal Crop Insurance Program and are provided directly to farmers by private insurers. Many farmers purchase Crop-Hail coverage because hail has the unique ability to totally destroy a significant part of a planted field while leaving the rest undamaged. In areas of the country where hail is a frequent event, farmers often purchase a Crop-Hail policy to protect high-yielding crops. Unlike MPCI, a Crop-Hail policy can be purchased at any time during the growing season.
*Excerpted from Crop Insurance in America