Insuring a Future for Small Farms
19 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 1, 2018
Congress created Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide small, diversified, and organic operations with an insurance product tailored to their unique needs. The program stands out from other federal crop insurance programs with its blend of features that, inter alia, incentivize risk management through crop/animal diversification, increase premium subsidies for beginning producers, allow organic price elections, and recognize on-farm processing expenses. For the farmers who use it, WFRP provides more than peace of mind in the face of unpredictable weather and prices. It provides a revenue guarantee that opens up critical financing channels otherwise denied to unsecured debtors. Despite its impressive growth over three years, WFRP remains underutilized. Farmers and their advocates point to several causes, including the recordkeeping and paperwork burden; failure to cover large year-over-year increases in revenue intrinsic to young operations; skewed incentives that pay policy writers on the value of the policy; and lagging awareness among both farmers and insurers. This essay will argue that the 2018 Farm Bill provides more than an opportunity to tweak WFRP, but to build on its core principles of diversification, beginning farmer and other incentives to dramatically improve the odds that small diversified operations can get established and grow. The essay will draw on the experience of its authors, who are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the lived needs of beginning farmers, on the one hand, and the complex policy landscape in which farm bills are written and implemented.
Keywords: farmers, risks management, food regulation, food policy
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