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PNS Daily Newscast - November 17, 2017 


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New Farm Insurance Option Makes Crop Diversification More Appealing

When floodwaters covered most of the land farmed by Kelly Jackson's father, he planted watermelons to get by. Those watermelons, however, weren't covered by insurance. (Pun Kaset/Pixabay)
When floodwaters covered most of the land farmed by Kelly Jackson's father, he planted watermelons to get by. Those watermelons, however, weren't covered by insurance. (Pun Kaset/Pixabay)
September 6, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. - An alternative to traditional farm insurance is catching the attention of the agriculture community throughout the Midwest.

In farming - as in investing - diversification is encouraged, but farmers who produce additional crops, such as watermelons and sweet corn, often have found insurance to be lacking or nonexistent. A pilot program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, known as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, is helping to change that.

Cora Fox, a policy program associate for the Center for Rural Affairs, said farms with a minimum of three commodities can receive up to 85 percent coverage - and it isn't only for niche markets and specialty crops.

"It really rewards diversification on a farm," she said. "So, for something like a major commodity grower, you could have corn, soybeans and wheat and still utilize Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, and get that 85 percent coverage level."

Diversification has been shown to protect soil, improve water quality, reduce the need for pesticides and cut energy usage. Fox said she is hopeful that Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will prompt more farmers to diversify their operations.

Kelly Jackson, general manager of Daniels Produce in Columbus, Neb., said her father farmed corn and soybeans until floods in 1982, 1983, and 1984 prompted his move into the fresh vegetable market. Still, they faced years in which entire crops were lost or insurance would only reimburse them for a predetermined commodity price that often was lower than the crop's true value.

"But 'Whole Farm' goes off of historically what I have produced, and historically what I've sold my product for," she said.

The pilot project is aimed not only at protecting the environment and assisting individual farms but at building more resilient rural communities.

USDA information about Whole Farm Revenue Protection is online at rma.usda.gov.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - MO