Published Jun 12, 2014

Closer to Coverage for Specialty Crops…

By Liz Kolbe

Drought, flood, hail, pests… low prices… some years corn and soybean crops may be worth less than the cost of production.  Luckily, there are several options for subsidized crop insurance available.

Fruit and vegetable farmers in Iowa have none of this security. Drought? Find a way to irrigate. Flood? Your crops are in the wrong place. Hail? Salvage what you can, market as seconds and replant. Pests? Hire some high school kids to pluck Colorado potato beetles into a soapy bucket of water. Next year you’ll try a row cover or a companion plant. Low prices? Keep looking for better ones, fast. Next year try you’ll a different marketing strategy.

If you can successfully navigate these challenges, you’ll be in business next year. If not, you’ve lost out on upwards of $25,000 in revenue per acre.

USDA recognized the enormous burden of production risk placed on fruit and vegetable farmers, and announced May 21, 2014, a pilot program called Whole Farm Revenue Protection targeted to diversified farms, including farms with specialty crops.

But there’s a catch: Whole Farm Revenue Protection is currently only available in states and selected counties where the current whole-farm program (AGR-Lite) is offered. Not Iowa. Not yet, anyway.

For a location to be added to the program, local “data for underwriting and actuarial ratemaking” must be available: at least three years of detailed production and sales data… We are halfway there! 

Thirteen PFI fruit and vegetable farmers are participating in a data collection project to provide this data, eventually creating a baseline of data so all fruit and vegetable growers in Iowa can access Whole Farm Revenue insurance. We are currently in the second year of data collection; data from the first year and the associated research report are available on the Practical Farmers website.

This project requires an enormous commitment from these farmers. Thank them if you get a chance!

Data Collection Cooperators:

Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan
Andy and Melissa Dunham
Rob and Tammy Faux
Rick and Stacy Hartmann
Emma Johnson
Susan Jutz
Tim Landgraf and Jan Libbey
Alice McGary and Nicholas Leete
Mark Quee
Matt Russell and Patrick Standley
Ben Saunders
Ellen Walsh-Rosman
John Wesselius and Jessica Wesselius