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January 19, 2021

As of 2019, federal agriculture officials said there were more than 16,000 organic farms in the United States

By Mike Moen, Public News Service (Iowa) 

Iowa is among the top states when it comes to the number of organic farms in operation, but producers have long struggled to obtain crop insurance that can better protect them from losses.

A new initiative aims to help close these gaps.

Last summer’s derecho storm left many Iowa farm fields flattened.

Kate Hansen, policy assistant at the Center for Rural Affairs, said these situations can be especially devastating for small to mid-size producers who don’t have the right crop insurance that can soften the blow.

She noted about a decade ago, when more organic farms came into existence, there weren’t many coverage plans that matched up with their products. But that’s changed.

“Now, there are over 80 certified organic crops that can be insured at higher organic prices,” Hansen explained. “And so, they’re just kind of more effectively insuring what they have out there in the field.”

Despite the expansion of coverage, Hansen acknowledged there’s still a disconnect in getting these farmers and ranchers to navigate newer plans. That leaves many organic crops under-protected.

Her group is out with a new resource guide that covers everything from contract prices to the claims process.

The guide also features feedback from crop-insurance agents across the Midwest.

Joshua Manske, an Iowa-based agent, said with the effects of climate change resulting in more extreme weather events, making connections with these producers can mitigate a lot of trouble.

“You know, I can’t imagine somebody who’s dreamed of farming their whole life, and worked hard every single day of their life to be able to do what they love… and some sort of event comes along and wipes out your crop,” Manske remarked.

Hansen added helping these producers with the process not only reduces the effects they can feel from such an event, but can also benefit their communities.

“Small family operations are sort of the backbone of rural communities,” Hansen maintained. “And crop insurance is a way to help them continue farming next year if they have a really bad year.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa had nearly 800 organic farms in 2019. That ranks the Hawkeye State sixth in the nation.

Meanwhile, the deadline to purchase insurance for most spring crops is March 15.