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The Most Important USDA Program For Farmers

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by Ken Root & Whitney Flach

If a farmer, lender, or an ag supplier had to pick one program from the government they would like agriculture to keep, it would probably be Crop Insurance. The run-up to the 2018 Farm Legislation is focusing on keeping the crop insurance program intact and defending its place within the USDA.

Ken Ackerman served from 1993 to 2001 as Manager of Federal Crop Insurance Administration and administrator of the Risk Management Agency of the US Department of Agriculture. Currently counsel for OFW Law, specializing in agriculture. He is a major player in the early development of the program in effect today.

Crop Insurance came into its current form following the Half Millennium Flood of 1993. Congress gave up on passing “ad hoc” disaster programs after realizing the help was too little and too late and the potential for abuse was too large. Now, crop insurance is the key program for risk management on a wide array of crops nationwide.

Ackerman says (Ken Ackerman Full Interview), “Crop insurance has become a very large program now. As a result, it has become the target. There will always be debate on whether the precise level of subsidies for crop insurance is too high or too low, whether the payments to the companies are too high or too low.” He continues on by saying “In recent years we have seen those under writings gains cut by agency and congress. We have also seen premium levels reduce by the risk management agency. A number of belt tightening have taken place in response to those criticisms.”