PA Crop Insurance extended

On behalf of Governor Mark Schweiker, Agriculture Secretary Sam Hayes has announced a continuation of the Pennsylvania Crop Insurance Assistance Program. The program was created by the Pennsylvania Department of
Agriculture in 2000 to help Pennsylvania farmers participate in crop insurance. All Pennsylvania farmers who purchase crop insurance are eligible for cost share assistance.
As the devastating drought of 1999 made it’s mark on Pennsylvania agriculture, the need for a disaster assistance became apparent. Pennsylvania responded quickly. In an effort to spare farmers from economic ruin, drought assistance payments were provided.
“Absolutely no other state or Department of Agriculture had as big a response to the 1999 drought as we did in Pennsylvania,” Hayes said. “Our Governor and state lawmakers responded to the need to provide a bridge from the 1999 crop year to the next year and it’s growing season.
“Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is not organized as a disaster payment agency. But I wanted to use every dollar for farmer payments. So, I asked the men and women at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to do their regular jobs plus we organized a team to administer the hay assistance, drought assistance payments and crop insurance programs. We have done over $70 million in transactions without adding employees and related administrative costs,” he continued.
Coming out of the drought and knowing there would not always be the budgetary opportunity for disaster payments, Secretary Hayes wanted to provide a better protective shield and better risk management opportunity against natural disasters through a reformed crop insurance program. The Pennsylvania Crop Insurance Assistance Program, initiated and administered by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, helped increase crop insurance participation to a new high with nearly 1.1 million acres of protected crops. More farmers are participating in this type of risk management than at any point in Pennsylvania’s history. Risk- management tools are especially important during periods of drought or deadly freezes, providing protection for farmers. This is real help to farm families and Pennsylvania agriculture.
Secretary Hayes noted that the crop insurance reform movement is a major initiative of the PA Department of Agriculture. “I wanted to seize the opportunity for a good, long-term public policy coming out of the disastrous drought of 1999,” Hayes said.
One of the first steps in developing affordable risk management plans for Pennsylvania farmers was to dedicate revenue to the task of helping to underwrite the cost of crop insurance in Pennsylvania.
Secretary Hayes formed a Pennsylvania Crop Insurance Task Force and called national insurance companies and the Risk Management Agency to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to develop a crop insurance program that would be more effective of the mid-Atlantic cropping systems.
Pilot programs have been launched in fourteen counties which will further prove the need for policy reform both in Pennsylvania and other states that have very diverse agriculture.
To emphasize the importance of risk management, the PA Department of Agriculture held 70 outreach meetings that were attended by approximately 4000 farmers prior to this Spring’s planting season. Other outreach and educational programs, such as public service announcements will be continued this fall and into next spring. These meetings provide the opportunity for farmers to learn about the various crop insurance policy options that meet their risk management needs. The PA Department of Agriculture and Secretary Hayes received national recognition for initiating the reform movement.
Pennsylvania has insured more acres under the Crop Insurance Assistance Program than ever before. In just a few years, crop insurance coverage has increased in Pennsylvania from 6,000 policies to more than 15,000 policies.
The Pennsylvania sign-up program is congruent with the USDA/RMA sign-up for crop insurance, To purchase insurance for the crop year 2003, farmers may sign-up with their local crop insurance agent. The deadlines for this year’s fall planting is September 30.2002. The deadline for tree and vine crops is November 20.
Hayes said the new state budget for agriculture is good.”We have $2 million available for farmers to purchase crop insurance this fall and next spring,” Hayes said. “This will provide over $200 million of protection for farmers.” A similar financial assistance program is already in place for the current year’s growing season.
This year has been especially hard on the corn crop. Our region is fortunate that it hasn’t been hit as hard by the drought as the south and eastern parts of the state. Even so, farmers in this area appreciate the efforts made by Secretary Hayes in reforming the crop insurance system and making it a model for other states to follow.