WHEREAS, increasing operating costs in the public sector, combined with decreasing revenues from a stagnant economy, have forced all levels of government to seek every possible cost-reduction strategy; and
WHEREAS, in the federal government’s agricultural programs, one of those cost-reduction strategies has been to reduce or eliminate weather and other disaster payments in favor of encouraging farmers to insure their crops; and
WHEREAS, federal agricultural programs have included offering subsidies for the insurance premiums as a way of incentivizing farmers to enroll in crop insurance; and
WHEREAS, New Jersey farmers’ enrollment in such insurance programs ranges from 97 percent for some eligible commodities to zero percent for others; and
WHEREAS, severe weather events of many types struck New Jersey in 2011 and 2012, including the devastating Hurricane Sandy, and brought widespread, serious damage to crops and farm structures of various types throughout the state; and
WHEREAS, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture fielded numerous calls from farmers impacted by these weather events, and many had not insured their crops, leaving them only the option of low-interest disaster loans as a way of recovering from the storm damage; and
WHEREAS, the Department learned from conversations with those farmers that many did not have crop insurance for any number of reasons, including difficulty in filling out voluminous application forms, the perception that their crops were not eligible for insurance, the cost of the premium or simply the belief that disaster payments of some kind would be made by the federal government in order to keep individual farms from failing; and
WHEREAS, the approach of the federal government toward relying on subsidized crop insurance premiums as a farmer’s sole protection from the devastation of severe weather events – including hurricanes, other persistent flooding rains, hail, extreme heat, drought or any other extreme weather – appears to be increasing rather than decreasing since it is a way of addressing a farmer’s losses without the additional expense of direct ad-hoc disaster payments.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 98th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 6-7, 2013, call upon the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), agricultural support groups such as New Jersey and American Farm Bureau, Rutgers NJAES Extension Service, commodity groups, and all others with knowledge of crop insurance programs at all levels, to continue aggressively educating farmers about crop insurance in an age when straight disaster payments from government are disappearing.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the USDA agencies responsible for promoting and administering crop insurance to make every effort to streamline and simplify the forms for applying for, and making claims upon, crop insurance.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the USDA agencies charged with promoting and administering crop insurance programs to re-examine what types of crops are eligible and under what circumstances, so that the widest possible number of farmers will be able to avail themselves of such protection.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge a change in crop insurance program guidelines so that farmers can choose which crops on their farms are to be insured instead of having to insure all the types of crops on their farms in order to have any of them insured.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to work with the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to ensure that the pending five-year Farm Bill includes the best possible crop insurance provisions for farms in New Jersey, which typically are smaller than those in other states, are more closely located to urban areas than in others states, and which produce a preponderance of Specialty Crops and other products not included in the historical “Big Five” commodities.