BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — From trade wars and flooding to supply chain disruptions due to COVID and a derecho, Midwest farmers have faced a number of challenges in recent years.
Jeff Kirwan of New Windsor testified to the obstacles facing Illinois farmers during a U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing last week.
“Never in recent memory, nor in my farming career, has agriculture become so reliant for such an extended period on emergency assistance. While we might not always express it, farmers greatly appreciated the efforts of Congress and USDA over the past three years to address the magnitude and cumulative impact caused by each of these natural and economic disasters,” said Kirwan.
The Mercer County farmer, who also serves as Illinois Farm Bureau District 3 director, also explained how crop insurance is the cornerstone of his operation.
“Our ability to market our grain, manage our risk, assume risk and financially survive depends on crop insurance,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a growing crop can be wiped out in one weather event.”
On top of crop insurance, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, and the Market Facilitation Program all have allowed farmers to pay bills and continue producing.
“Through it all, the farm safety net, ARC and PLC (Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage), also played a key role in keeping farmers afloat,” added Kirwan. “But in the absence of ad-hoc disaster assistance, there’s no question those programs and the timing of payments were simply not designed to address extraordinary economic and weather-related disasters.
“There needs to be a review of these programs, and farm organizations need to be part of that conversation.”
The U.S. House subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, asked witnesses about the current widespread Western droughts, how to improve crop insurance, the timing of program payments and what resources they utilize.
“Trade disputes and weather issues along with high yields contributed to abundant supply which led to these lower incomes,” testified Gary Schnitkey, agricultural economics professor at the University of Illinois. “Without the federal safety net, farm incomes would have been much lower. Payments for farm safety net programs and net insurance payments were 20% of net income in 2018, 33% in 2019 and 59% in 2020.”
“Many commodities have had higher prices since late summer 2020 and income looks good in 2021,” added Schnitkey. “This more robust outlook differs from what many, myself included, would have expected last year at this time, illustrating how situations can abruptly change in agriculture.”
About the Illinois Farm Bureau
The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 386,291 and a voting membership of 79,159. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.
— Illinois Farm Bureau
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