Let them Eat Crop Insurance: Extreme Weather, Agricultural Stability & Subsistence Farmers

As U.S. farmers grapple with extreme weather, can we secure U.S.-style safeguards for the world’s poorest farmers?
A family during the Horn of Africa drought and food crisis of 2011. Credit: S. Hauenstein Swan
A family during the Horn of Africa drought and food crisis of 2011. Credit: S. Hauenstein Swan

The New York Times, among other news agencies, has featured a spate of articles recently on severe weather patterns across the U.S. and how particularly crippling the drought has been for farmers and ranchers in the West—not to mention the resulting increase in food prices that U.S. consumers can expect next year.

News of price spikes, desiccated crops, and ranchers selling off cattle to cut drought-induced losses is a critical story in the U.S. It’s also reminiscent of the realities that routinely haunt Action Against Hunger’s work around the world—like the tragic effects recurring drought has had across East Africa, where more than 12 million people experienced acute food and water shortages—even famine, in Somalia—over the past year.

American farmers and ranchers are clearly suffering, but a wider catastrophe can largely be avoided thanks to long-standing safeguards like livestock and crop insurance that help these groups recover after periodic climate shocks. In fact, the U.S. agricultural sector benefits from a range of policy and market-based developments that have historically ensured stability for farmers, growing production volumes, and benefits for U.S. consumers—e.g., expanded access to quality seeds and fertilizers; agricultural extension services, training, and insurance programs; subsidized access to credit; real-time market exchange information; improved storage and transport technologies; and price supports. So while the current crisis may lead to short-term losses and increased commodity prices, it will unlikely lead to widespread hunger.

Let’s ensure these same safeguards for subsistence farmers around the world where livelihoods are easily upended by climate shocks and millions of young lives are threatened when severe droughts occur.

You can help ACF reinforce such solutions by supporting our food security and livelihoods programs. You can also delve deeper into these issues by checking out books such as Enough: Why the Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty and The Last Hunger Season.

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Ever stop to consider the bewildering array of agricultural, technical and policy developments that have made it possible to drink from that carton of milk with the fridge door open?

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About Muriel Calo

Muriel is Action Against Hunger’s Senior Food Security & Livelihoods Advisor, applying her food policy expertise to oversee our programs promoting long-term food security in South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda.