The USDA plans to maintain the government's role is keeping
crop insurance a valuable source of stability for US farmers, said Tom Vilsack, the new USDA secretary. "[W]e're not going to do anything to the crop insurance program that would reduce its effectiveness in providing that sense of security," said Vilsack.
A "moral hazard" related to insurance results when policy holders take risks, thinking insurance insulates them from negative repercussions. The US crop insurance system avoids this problem by raising premiums for farmers who court risk with unsound farming practices that produce poor yields.
The Biden Administration's budget request would increase funding for agriculture by 16% to $27.8 billion to boost efforts including broadband access, forest management and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The President's budget commits to building back better and USDA is at heart of that historic commitment," Vilsack said.
The USDA has earmarked about $330 million in funding for programs to help specialty crop growers and other agricultural groups recover from the pandemic. The funds are aimed at helping US growers sell into new markets and encourage low-income consumers to buy more fresh produce.
Demand from China has spurred a record week for sorghum exports of nearly 34 million bushels, exceeding the previous record by 10 million bushels and driving sorghum's price to more than $5 a bushel, according to the USDA. New crop orders have hit a record 40 million bushels for the new marketing year, marking a 264% increase at this point over 2014's record year, according to the National Sorghum Producers.
Shrinking ending stocks and strong domestic and export demand have propelled corn futures to $6 bushel -- a price not seen since 2013, so "keep vigilant on cash opportunities in front of you," writes Naomi Blohm with Total Farm Marketing. A short-term retreat to $5.55 is possible but still represents a healthy uptrend, writes Blohm.
This year's crop prices are providing a much-needed financial boost for farmers, such as Chad Bell, a sixth-generation corn and soybean producer in Illinois. "Any equipment upgrades that we're looking at making ... these prices are definitely helping that to happen," said Bell.
The California cherry season is expected to return to something more resembling normal this year, after the pandemic took a toll on exports and made retailers cautious about cherry promotions last year, growers and marketers say. "Cherries are an impulse purchase and shoppers need to be reminded when they come back into season through a display in a great location and with high-quality fruit," said Chris Medeiros, general manager of Meena Farms.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has created an interactive site called SoyStage that is designed to help soybean farmers manage their crops. The system uses criteria like weather information and location to help farmers time actions including irrigation and pesticide applications.
With more frequent and intense weather patterns, rising interest rates and production costs and lower commodity prices, our risk has gone up while our balance sheets have gone down. We simply have to have affordable crop insurance to manage those risks.