By Mike Barnett
Total devastation visited Fleming Grain and Cattle Company Thursday evening. The storms that rolled through Texas that day damaged and destroyed thousands of acres of corn and wheat on several farms in Bell and Falls counties and other parts of the state as well.
The year started with promise for farmers like Robert Fleming. His crops looked good. It was a bit dry, however, and he was optimistic for the moisture Thursday’s cold front would bring. He didn’t bargain for the pea-sized hail driven by straight-line winds that peppered the crops like a mini-machine gun.
Crop disasters are not foreign to Texas farmers this season or any other. It’s part of the farming gamble. Drought-like conditions have dried up crops in parts of the Coastal Bend and South Texas. Freezes bit corn in Central Texas and were the reason many farmers had to bale a promising wheat crop. The cold weather has plagued farmers in the Panhandle as well.
But there’s something about a hail storm that is just a little bit harder to take. Watching a crop go from bountiful to disaster in just a few minutes is gut wrenching.
Crop insurance makes the situation bearable. But it’s in danger.
Farm bill negotiations are currently underway in Washington, D.C., and subsidized crop insurance payments are a target from both the left and the right. What critics fail to realize is, if successful, they will cut America’s legs right out from under her.
Crop insurance is about the only tool left when it comes to risk management for farmers. Yes, farmers pay for it. But no crop yields enough to pay the entire premium. That’s why a subsidy is required to make it work.
The purpose of crop insurance is not to make farmers whole. It gives them just enough resources to get back on their feet when it’s time to plant again.
And that’s good for Robert Fleming and other Texas farmers who have felt Mother Nature’s sting this spring. And that’s good for the food security of America as well.