Crop insurance remains the most vital tool in the farm safety net toolkit. From droughts and derechos to economic hardship and unstable commodity prices, crop insurance is a lifeline for our producers and their families. Serving on the House Agriculture Committee, I believe the upcoming Farm Bill must protect, promote, and enhance the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) program to support the needs of our young, beginning, and veteran farmers who are the future of agriculture in Iowa and across the country.

In my district alone, there are over 50,000 active crop insurance policies that protect our farmers, ranchers, and producers from the unanticipated dangers of extreme weather events and poor economic conditions. The policies offered by the Risk Management Agency within the FCIP cover most sectors of agriculture as well – including hogs, cattle, sugar, cotton, specialty crops, and countless other farm products. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, 34% of all farmers in the United States are over the age of 65, while only 8% are younger than 35. That means that almost 50% of American farmland – or nearly 450 million acres – is expected to change hands over the next two decades. Six years later, record inflation, economic instability, and skyrocketing interest rates have made it more difficult for our younger generation to overcome the hurdles of succeeding in the agriculture sector. That said, I fear that today’s statistics would prove even more alarming for the next generation of farmers and producers.

That’s why I introduced – alongside Rep. Craig (D-MN), Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sen. Thune (R-SD) – the Crop Insurance for Future Farmers Act. While China redoubles its efforts to buy up American farmland, we cannot sit on the sidelines. We must help the next generation of farmers and producers navigate the financial challenges inherent in food production and ensure that they can make a living and continue our time-honored agricultural traditions in the Midwest. With the anticipated exchange of hundreds of millions of acres of American farmland over the next several decades, our young and beginning producers deserve a seat at the table and stake in the game. Fortunately, this bill takes steps today to strengthen the farmers of tomorrow.

Specifically, this legislation would align the definition of a “beginning farmer” to match that within other USDA programs – 10 crop years or less – instead of the current definition of 5 crop years or less. It would also increase the premium assistance for new, beginning, and veteran farmers during their first five years in operation, the most vulnerable of any new venture.

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As of 2022, these essential FCIP policies insure over 22 million acres of Iowa farmland, but also help protect billions of dollars’ worth of cattle, swine, and dairy production throughout the state. The hardworking farmers in my district have faced droughts, floods, and multiple derechos over the last few years, but that did not stop Iowa farmers from producing the most corn, hogs, and eggs of any other state in the country last year. 

Born and raised in rural Iowa, I believe that the Crop Insurance for Future Farmers Act provides a critical solution to secure and support the next generation of American farmers and ranchers. Our farmers are the lifeblood of our rural communities and are intertwined with all aspects of everyday life from church to schoolboards to coaching the t-ball team. Unless we prioritize our young farmers – those who aspire to be the vital lynchpins of our communities – our rural towns will continue to face population loss and uncertainty. By providing the next generation of producers with the tools that they need to succeed, we will maintain America’s gold standard of food production and retain our status as the breadbasket of the world for generations to come.

Congressman Randy Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.

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