The federal crop insurance program is expected to expand in 2014, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official told farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.
Tim Hoffmann, director of product administration and standards for the Risk Management Agency within the USDA, said USDA plans to expand the program by focusing on production history enhancements, creating a limited irrigation contract and prevented planning contract and enhancing the nursery program.
He said USDA is also looking for new ways to use data it collects from insured farmers.
“USDA collects a huge amount of data from crop insurance,” said Hoffmann, noting that it has more data on crop plantings than the National Agriculture Statistics Service.
Hoffmann presented to attendees at the convention in San Antonio.
The crop insurance program covers more than 125 crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as nursery flowers, fruit and tobacco. Last year it expanded to include specialty crops like seafood, cotton seeds, as well as organic and community supported agriculture.
The program insured more than 295 million acres of crops in 2013 and 283-plus million acres in 2012. The program experienced a sharp increase in costs from last year, totaling $13.2 billion, up from $4.6 billion in 2012. Hoffmann attributed the rise to higher commodity prices and increased liability for insurers.
Congress is still working on a new farm bill that would cut food stamps for the poor and expand crop insurance for farmers. Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on how much if any to cut from food stamps. There is, however, some agreement on trimming traditional farm subsidies and expanding outlays for crop insurance.