By Thomas P. Zacharias, Ph.D., president of National Crop Insurance Services.
The 2014 Farm Bill was nearly four years and more than 40 public hearings in the making.
It was a long process that tested farmers’ patience and gave professional critics on both sides of the aisle ample opportunity to unfairly characterize the men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs.
In the months and years since, crop insurance has proven its worth to the rural economy and new Farm Bill policies have kicked in to help growers cope with falling commodity prices. Yet agriculture’s political opponents have been unrelenting in their misguided attacks on Capitol Hill and in the press.Luckily for farmers, it looks like they have a pretty powerful ally in their corner: The American public.
A new public opinion poll conducted in April showed that 86 percent of voters have a favorable view of farmers. What’s more, those high marks cut across party lines.
The bipartisan support continued when it came to farm policy, too. Ninety-two percent of respondents said they supported federal spending on farmers, which is not surprising since 81 percent agreed that, “a strong and thriving American farming industry is critical to American national security.”
Views of farm policy remained favorable even after survey participants were told that critics argue that big farms and agribusinesses can afford to protect themselves without government help.
Moreover, Americans said that farm policy should be a shared investment among farmers and taxpayers. Nearly three-quarters believe that “farmers should help fund farm policies so that taxpayers are not paying the full cost.”
That is exactly what crop insurance does, which may explain why nearly 80 percent of those polled supported farmers receiving discounts on crop insurance premiums. And when Americans found out how much of the crop insurance tab farmers paid, they were pleased.
Nearly seven in 10 voters either said that farmers were being asked to pay too much or were paying the right amount of their premiums. Similarly, eight in 10 felt that the loss deductibles farmers shoulder before receiving aid is about right or even too high.
The national survey, which was conducted by North Star Opinion Research and commissioned by the National Crop Insurance Services, also shed valuable light on who America thinks should deliver crop insurance. By more than a 20-point margin, respondents say that farmers and American taxpayers are better served by insurance delivered by private companies instead of the government.
Bottom line: America’s appreciation of farmers and farm policy continues, and it is as strong as ever thanks to the smart, commonsense choices that Congress has made.
The phone survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted April 3-7 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent. It can be accessed here.
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