Farming is a little like skydiving

By Nathan Smith, Field Editor

Last week I saw miles and miles of Texas. I traveled to West Texas to visit with cotton farmers about the crop that’s going in the ground as we speak.

They are pouring seed into planter boxes and rolling across the freshly prepared ground. They plant with an optimism that seems to renew each season, no matter how bad the last year hurt.

On Interstate 27, I saw a sign advertising skydiving. It got me thinking about the huge risk farmers take on faith – every year.

As we talked, one farmer motioned toward his truck and trailer. There on a flatbed sat $17,000 in seed that might never reach harvest. Diesel fuel is on the rise, and equipment repairs constantly need to be made. Fertilizer prices could blow past record highs.

One farm worker and I talked about the major hail events of the past. He remembered one evening, while on the tractor a few years ago, a large hail storm came rolling across the Panhandle. It rained down baseball-sized chunks of ice and shattered windows in houses and cars. It also decimated the cotton crop.

“It looked like snow on the ground after it passed through,” he said of the cotton that never made it to market.

Months of toiling, planning, working all gone in 30 minutes. It happens to someone every year.

That is why crop insurance is more than a nebulous term thrown around meeting halls and congressional offices. It’s tangible.

For farmers, crop insurance is fuel in the tank, seed in the ground and hope when everything goes bad. It means survival, and it’s needed and warranted.

Without crop insurance, the 2011 drought would have ended a way of life for many farming families across the state. Some farmers were forced out even in spite of the safety net.

A friend of mine, who recently returned to the family farm, nailed it. He said without crop insurance, farming is kind of like jumping out of a plane with no parachute.

Not many operating loans can be secured without some kind of recovery plan. Even at 70 percent recovery, it’s still a high-stakes gamble.

I asked one cotton farmer near Abilene why he wouldn’t just be happy with an insurance check every year.

“You can’t farm insurance; it’s not sustainable. I want to make a crop,” he replied.

He and hundreds like him are farmers because they love watching a crop come to fruition. They appreciate the way of life agriculture offers and want to continue to provide food and fiber for the state and country.

For them, crop insurance is not a hand-out or some kind of farmer’s welfare. It is risk protection for a business that takes millions of dollars to operate statewide.

It ensures crops like cotton can flourish in Texas. Take it away and not only will farmers be out of luck in the next drought but the cost of socks – and everything else made with cotton – will go through the roof.

Thankfully, farmers are willing to take the risk year after year. If they wanted an easy job, they would be doing something else – like skydiving.

Photo © Germanskydiver |

Nathan Smith

2 Responses to “Farming is a little like skydiving”

  1. Suzie Wilde says:

    Good thoughts Nathan! Crop insurance is no different than you homeowners or auto insurance when you really boil it all down. You cover your home so that if it burns down or is blown away by a tornado, you can build a new home. Farmers take crop insurance so that if they face a natural disaster and their crop “burns down or is blown away by a tornado” or anything else Mother Nature throws at them, they can “build a new” crop for next year. But what folks don’t realize is that they only get part of that crop back, because crop insurance has very high deductibles. So, in comparison, a farmer would only get to build 60% or 70% of their “house” back. Hitting two or three of these natural disasters in a row, there is not much left and they would only be getting to build back a living room, without the rest of the house! That’s why farmers want to grow crops, along with the fact that they love what they do!

  2. Michael White says:

    Thanks for your comments
    Nathan,we lost 240 acres of wheat due to hail on April 29th.

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