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Bias Against Sustainable Agriculture?

September 15, 2011

LYONS, Neb. - Sustainable agriculture practices often face an uphill battle. The Center for Rural Affairs, along with the Iowa Farmers Union, surveyed bankers, insurers and producers on the question of discrimination against those who try sustainable operations.

Report author Traci Bruckner, policy analyst and rural policy program assistant director with the Center for Rural Affairs, says the disparities are real.

"Our study found there is certainly a gap in the knowledge level amongst bankers, lenders and crop insurance agents in their awareness and knowledge regarding sustainable agriculture."

Bruckner says one thing that can alter perceptions is to change the language in the 2012 Farm Bill, which currently puts sustainable agriculture producers at a disadvantage. One example is the requirement of a surcharge for crop insurance.

"If you're an organic farmer, you pay a 5-percent premium surcharge just for being an organic producer, because they see you as riskier."

She says lenders are most concerned with the profitability and cash flow of the farming operations. The survey found that more education is needed for bankers, to show them that sustainable agriculture markets are profitable. Bruckner says lenders need to know there are programs for organic farming that help ensure profitability.

A full copy of the report can be accessed at or downloaded from http://files.cfra.org/pdf/credit-crop-insurance-survey-iowa.pdf.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA