Until last year, U.S. farmers could only readily and effectively insure commodity crops, such as corn and soy. This left many small-scale, diversified and generally more sustainable farmers in a risky lurch. Enter Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), an insurance policy that protects all the crops and livestock on a single farm. This new option, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), gives all farmers an adequate safety net to protect against the inherent risks of farming — think weather — no matter whether that farmer grows heirloom tomatoes for a farmers market, raises beef and organic vegetables for a community-supported agriculture program, or cultivates acres of corn.
Starting in 2015, this whole-farm insurance became available in certain counties in 45 states, and then expanded to all counties in every state in 2016. As reported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, this makes WFRP insurance the first universally available whole-farm crop-insurance policy in the United States. This could be a game-changer for farmers who’ve been looking to switch to ecologically sound, diversified farming systems, but who’ve been afraid of the financial risk.
In addition to making WFRP available nationwide in 2016, the USDA also plans to ease record-keeping requirements for eligible direct-market farmers, among other improvements to the program. Farmers have been able to purchase WFRP coverage since Sept. 1, 2015, and enrollment will continue until each county’s selected closing date in spring 2016. The plan can cover any farm that earns up to $8.5 million a year, as long as revenue from animals and animal products, or from greenhouse and nursery sales, doesn’t exceed $1 million. Find full details and all the required paperwork on Risk Management Agency's website.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter.