IT'S NOT JUST FARMING ANYMORE
"Missouri farmers used to harvest their crop, store it, and sell it," said Dean Gibson. "That's not enough in today's global marketplace."
Mar 1, 2002 - Dean Gibson farms 1,250 Missouri acres that support corn, soybean, and wheat crops and a 200-cow/calf feeder operation. Gibson also is a crop insurance agent who has been selling crop insurance for 22 years, almost as long as he has been farming. But the owner of Gibson Insurance Group, Inc., located in Tipton, Missouri, believes that dramatic changes in the agricultural marketplace over the last 5-10 years have changed the way Missouri farmers do business.
"Farmers used to harvest their crop, store it, and sell it," says Gibson. Now, to survive in a highly competitive market, "many Missouri farmers have moved to forward contracting and the futures market to protect a bottom line price." Gibson reports a 2-1/2 percent return on his own farming investment, so he is painfully aware of the slim margins that keep a farmer in business.
He emphasizes how critical crop insurance protection is for the American farmer. "Farmers need more self-help agricultural programs like crop insurance to help them stay in business," Gibson says. He is concerned that larger, corporate farms may one day blot out the smaller family farms that have been a mainstay of the American countryside. "I do think that government programs can keep our small farming industry viable."
While farmers once made up 20 percent of America's people, "We're down to 2 percent of the population as a whole and that number falls yearly," Gibson said. But his demographic studies of state agricultural trends show another worrisome trend: "Missouri farmers reflect the nationwide aging among the farming population."
Gibson is doing his part to keep small farmers solvent by promoting crop insurance in Missouri. "I have identified counties in Missouri that meet the 'underserved' standard and have concentrated outreach efforts to farmers and lenders in that area." His crop insurance message has also made good farming sense to a number of Missouri farmers of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. "Many of these farmers are providing leadership by example for other members of their communities," says Gibson.
Based on the needs in his counties, Gibson has developed a wish list for new crop insurance products' which may be closer to reality since the first livestock pilots for swine crop insurance were approved for Iowa. "I would really like to see pilots for feeder cattle and poultry operations. You might not realize this, but Missouri is the No. 2 state for feeder cattle, after Texas. I also know poultry operators with production contracts who would snap up this kind of protection."
Regardless of the nature of future crop insurance products and the turn that government programs may take, Gibson makes it clear that he will be promoting the advantages of crop insurance to lenders and reaching out to sell crop insurance to established farmers and newcomers.