by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
GENEVA, NY — Want a safety net to protect you from the perils of farming? Get crop insurance, according to farmer Brian Andrews. The Machias, NY-based producer spoke about crop insurance via video at a New York Certified Organic Winter Meeting recently.
Andrews farms 1,200 acres of corn, 1,200 acres of soybeans, 500 acres of peas, 400 acres of wheat and 150 acres of oats. He hadn’t thought about crop insurance much. It seemed too expensive and unneeded. His meeting with a loan officer forced him to look into crop insurance, as obtaining it represented the one of the lender’s first requirements.
“Later, I felt it was a necessity,” Andrews said. “If you don’t have crop insurance, you leave yourself open to a loss of income.”
Andrews’ acres spread across 40 miles, which means he encounters different soil types, pest and weed issues and even weather patterns on such a vast expanse of land. For insurance purposes, he divides the land into 20 units so that each is represented separately so that he receives sufficient payment for bad crops in one area without a good harvest elsewhere skewing the figures.
Andrews said dividing the land like this “has worked well.”
“One thing nice about coverage is I can price crops ahead when a favorable crop is coming on,” he said. “Crop insurance helps us do that. You have assurance you can cover deliveries. It protects you against loss.”
He added that at first, it may seem like the cost of premiums isn’t worth the added expense to the farm budget; however, “with the narrow profit margin, you could make one or two mistakes and you’re out of business,” Andrews warned.
He explained that crop insurance isn’t meant for a less-than-stellar year, but as a hedge against catastrophic crop failure.
As a farmer’s yields increase, his crop insurance should increase as well, Andrews added. He covers his most valuable crops at a higher rate and his smaller, less valuable crops at lower level.
Andrews recalled a hailstorm that affected 80 percent of his soybean crop.
“It probably made $90,000 to $100,00 difference in income,” he said. “It’s money I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t have insurance.”
A lifelong farming enthusiast, Andrews said he enjoyed growing plants ever since he sowed seeds in a cup as a schoolchild.
He loves nothing more than seeing his hard work pay off as he views a field full of his crops; however, when hard work isn’t enough to bring a harvest, crop insurance helps him try again next season by covering expenses and protecting the tools of his livelihood.
The monthly NYCO winter meetings are co-hosted by the New York Crop Insurance Education Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension. The next meeting in the series will be held March 13 at 10 a.m. at Jordan Hall at the Agricultural Experiment Station Geneva, NY. The meetings are free and do not require registration. Attendees should bring a dish to share at the noon potluck. For more information, contact Fay Benson at 607.391.2669 or firstname.lastname@example.org.