Figures from the American Farm Bureau Federation released last week are showing that “2022 will go into the record books as the third-costliest year for weather disasters in U.S. history,” with total economic losses hitting some $165 billion.
AFBF’s Market intel, which can be read at https://www.fb.org/market-intel/new-estimates-reveal-major-2022-weather-disasters-caused-over-21-billion-in-crop-losses . notes weather brought about more than $21 billion in crop losses to American farmers, and a March 1 AFBF release said, “The impact to America’s farms and ranches demonstrates the importance of farm bill programs to help rural communities recover from weather-related disasters.”
Just the day before, on Feb. 28, AFBF President Zippy Duvall spent four and a half hours before the House Agriculture Committee enumerating challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers. Duvall was among six five ag industry leaders who testified and answered questions from committee members during the hearing which was entitled “Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture.”
During his testimony, Duvall said, “There are certainly plenty of challenges for American agriculture,” Duvall told the committee during his opening comments. “From losses experienced in the trade war with China, to pandemic lockdowns, and supply chain disruptions. Add to it the record-high supply costs, and you see how farmers and ranchers have faced unprecedented volatility in recent years.”
The Market Intel has provided figures showing disaster losses, as well as analyzing and summarizing “total crop loss estimations across all major weather events for 2022, including hurricanes Fiona and Ian, the June 13 derecho that impacted several central U.S. states, and the ongoing drought affecting much of the Western U.S.”
In addition, the Market Intel “analyzes the coverage — and coverage gaps — provided by existing risk management programs, such as crop insurance, as well as ad hoc disaster assistance like the Farm Service Agency’s new Emergency Relief Program (ERP).
“Over $11 billion in losses were covered by existing Risk Management Agency programs as of February 2022. Over $10 billion in losses were not insured through RMA, existed outside policies’ coverage levels, or did not qualify under an existing risk management program,” which highlights the importance of inclusive protections for growers of all crops in all regions of the nation,” the Market Intel said.
In the March 1 release that followed his testimony before the full committee, Duvall said, “It’s not hard to see why programs like crop insurance and disaster coverage are vital to the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, and the stability of our country as a whole. Even a brief analysis of estimates from last year’s disaster losses proves why a strong farm safety net is a necessity. When you have nature as a business partner, you need a strong support system to help put the pieces back together when the unexpected happens.”
And the release said, “The full extent of damage across agriculture is likely far higher as crop loss estimates do not include infrastructure damage, livestock losses, horticulture crop losses or timber losses associated with the weather events.”
In outlining the challenges facing agriculture in this country, Duvall said, “USDA’s most recent Farm Sector Income Forecast sees a decrease in net farm income in 2023, down 15.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that’s an 18 percent drop. The same report estimates farm and ranch production expenses will continue to increase – by $18 billion. This follows a record increase of $70 billion in 2022.”
And President Duvall highlighted “regulatory hardships facing farmers, including restricted access to pesticides, the new Waters of the United States rule, a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission emissions reporting rule and shortcomings in the H-2A labor program.
He also shared opportunities to strengthen farms through voluntary climate-smart programs, increased meat processing competition and the passage of a unified farm bill.”
When asked by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) about maintaining nutrition programs in the food bill, Duvall said, “It is important that we understand how important the safety net is for agriculture so that we will have the food to be able to use in the safety net for the people that are not as fortunate as others during periods of their lives.”
Duvall went on to say, “So, I think they go together well. It gives us a true picture of the food, where it’s produced and where a lot of it’s consumed and making sure that those people have access to good quality food.”
In response to a question from Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) on the importance of trade, President Duvall answered, “Any time the field in the arena of trade is leveled and we have access to those markets, it helps our farmers and ranchers tremendously. We’re always working to encourage trade across the world, and we just think there are some great opportunities, especially in the Asia Pacific areas.”