Federal crop insurance program hinders organic farm growth

Crop InsuranceThough there has been an increase in consumer demand for consumer foods, some producers are finding that the federal crop insurance program – which was created to assist farmers – is hindering their ability to expand.

This, according to Matt McLean, the founder of Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc, which has become the largest organic citrus producer in Florida, after having started in 1999 with only 5 acres of oranges.

The reason that McLean and other farmers are making this claim is that organic producers are required to pay a surcharge on a number of the policies in the federal crop insurance program, and the payments that they receive on a claim don’t align with the larger expenses faced by their farms, which can hamper the ability for a farm to develop and provide shortage contributions for some of the products that are grown naturally.

McLean explained that because there is a lower subsidy, the incentive to try to meet the ever-growing demands of the market has withered. McLean’s farm now consists of 1,110 acres of grapefruit, tangerine, and other citrus crops, and is owned by his own family. He and 25 other farmers sell their produce to Kroger Co. and Whole Foods Market Inc.

He said that “We just want the same tools as conventional farmers to protect our assets,” and added that “It costs us more to grow.”

According to data from the Organic Trade Association, since the year 2000, the sales of organic fruit, food and beverages rose from $6.1 billion to $26.7 billion in 2010.

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